Someone once told me that fiction writers construct their stories from a personal mosaic of life experience, casual observation, and imagination. I have found this to be true of own my writing (though for me, the hodgepodge can feel more like the makings of a bad dream), especially when it comes to crafting characters. 


I start by conjuring a mental sketch of someone I knew once upon a time. Okay, I am going to stop right there, because that confession makes me seem devious and unimaginative. Should I not be able to envision characters without relying on the physical and concomitant traits of real people? Who “owns” my mental images and impressions of folks I have met over the course of my life? As an attorney, I am far more comfortable answering that question as a legal matter than an ethical one.

Do I owe it to my myself—and my characters—to tell certain individuals that I thought of them when crafting my novels? Do I need their blessing? I think it's helpful to invoke The Golden Rule when evaluating such questions: How would I feel if the tables were turned? If I recognized things about myself in a book penned by someone I once knew, would I be pleased or pissed? Would I view the less flattering aspects of that character as defamatory, or whimsical?

I suppose I cannot answer that truthfully, as it has never occurred as far as I know. I take comfort in knowing that most humans—myself included—are so delusional about who we are vs. how we appear to others, that we probably wouldn’t recognize our fictional selves in any case.