• Stephen Wilson

Truth in Fiction

Updated: Sep 24, 2019

Characters drawn from real life


The more I write and develop plots for books, the more I have come to believe that most authors put a small amount of autobiography in all of their fictional work. Sometimes characters are adapted versions of people they have known, and other times a plot point is an event from the author's past that still resonates with him or her...


For example, L. Frank Baum - The author of The Wizard of OZ, was sent to a military school as a young boy. The dreamy author-to-be didn't want to go and the incident was traumatic.

He was sent alone to a new city and was told to ask for directions to the institute when he arrived. When he requested help from a dock worker he was pointed in the same direction as all the boys. "See those two roads" the worker indicated, "just follow that yellow brick road up the hill."


Not to belabor the point. But Baum's small-town caught and caged a "Cowardly Lion" that had escaped from a traveling circus when he was growing up.


The James Bond creator, Ian Fleming, also based characters on his friends. The secretive man, "M", who sent Bond on his missions was based on his former boss. Other minor characters were patterned on his friends in Jamaica.


I took a very unscientific poll among the writers on Twitter, and about 20 percent of those who responded confirmed they had based characters in their books on friends or family.


There is some amount of truth in most fiction.



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