Can You Use Real People in Your Books?

I could have sworn that I had covered this before, but I guess I was wrong because I can’t find a post about it. But today I want to talk about something very specific to contemporary fiction writers. So many times I’ve asked myself, “can you use real people in your books?”

So let’s tackle that today, because there are a lot of different answers to this question, depending on your situation. So let’s break this down in a few different ways, mainly by the type of people you might be including in your stories.

Can You Use Real People in Your Books?

The People You Know in Real Life

I’m going to start off with a firm “no” on this one. With some exceptions. Naturally, in any character we create, we bring in bits and pieces of people we know in real life. Whether your friend and your main character have the same mannerisms or are from the same place, we pull in parts of our lives. That itself is okay. You can’t have a truly original idea, so it’s okay to take little tiny pieces from those you know.

Now, that being said, don’t carbon copy people in your life. It’ll be really obvious and people don’t really like that. Remember, bits and pieces. Your characters need to be living breathing things on their own, so you need someone with a little bit of everything. If you’re at a loss on where to start with building a character, I suggest a stereotype. They exist for a reason, and as a writer, use that to build your character into something more (that may be a totally different post later on).

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So, in essence, it’s okay to use tidbits of the people you know in real life. I wouldn’t name your characters after them or make it obvious. Your friends probably like their privacy, so be nice and respect it for them!

The Public People

Now let’s talk about celebrities and politicians, people of the likes. This answer is a little more complicated because it really depends on your story. For instance, in my book series, later in the series, I anticipate Cassie to get pretty close to some high-up people in the government (like Vice President, President). That being said, because I already know what to expect out of my books, I’ll be making up my own VP and President.

If your character isn’t specifically working with someone famous, you can always just mention the person. But I wouldn’t do anything beyond that – especially if you’re planning to publish your book later on. Saying something more than just naming them, you can open yourself to some legal issues.

More times than not, I’d say to make your own characters. It’s more fun, and you also don’t have to worry about someone getting upset.

The only time any of this goes out the window is if you write historical fiction that deals with famous people. In that case, do your research, make sure you portray them accurately, but have fun!