Do you ever base your villains on real people you know?

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mschenk2016

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One of the villains in my WIP is a teacher. Then last year I started a new job at a school. Just by coincidence, my boss shared the name of my villain! So I had to change it. I was actually pretty disappointed because it took me a while to come up with the perfect name, and I didn't like the name I changed it to as much.
 
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lizmonster

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A cousin of mine wrote some mysteries back in the 70s. In the first one, the chairman of the board at the local public library was murdered by a cast-iron trivet to the head. It was entirely a coincidence that my cousin absolutely loathed the guy who was chairman of the board at her local public library (although the character didn't bear much resemblance to the real-world guy outside of his job).

Her agent told her she'd never need therapy.
 

ChaseJxyz

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I have one antagonist that is very "haha I hope my therapist never reads this :) " because it's very obvious who they're based on if you know enough about me to know the crap I've been through. In another project, the antagonist is mostly based off of me, but so is the protagonist; they're both trans and their motivation is doing what they "need" to do to live a comfortable existence. The desire to not have all your hard work and suffering and personal sacrifice destroyed can push you to do things you otherwise wouldn't consider (like being the antagonist).
 
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N.E.Synner

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I think one of the best things about writing is being able to imagine the untimely demise of someone we don't much care for (be honest, we all do it!!) or to mock them in some way without any harm being done...hopefully.
Reminds me of an interview with Trey Parker and Matt Stone (creators of Southpark) who talked about a teacher telling them they'd never amount to anything. They made him a character and laughingly said "Now we're making a million dollars off of him!"
Oh the irony.....
 
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Chris P

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I did this much more when I was newer to writing, but I don't so much anymore. Part of my journey as a writer (and not to knock anyone who is not experiencing this; just speaking for me) is learning how my characters can work for me to tell the story I want to tell. Rather than asking "How can I put that person in my book?" as I did in the past, today I'm more likely to ask "How can that person's characteristics enhance the character I'm developing?"
 
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Lakey

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I sometimes use people I know as a starting point, not just for antagonists but in general. Then I let the story take them wherever they need to go, and they often end up rather different from the real person. In my current novel, there's a funny example of this. One of my protagonists needed a friend, a couple that she and her husband could be close to. I based them on very close friends of mine, took their names and a few of their traits. As I developed the novel, one half of this couple evolved into a major antagonist, and he got more and more obnoxious. Now he's an insufferable boor who is very cruel to the protagonist toward the end of the book. What started as a tribute to my close friends turned into characters whose names I have to change so that my friends won't think they are based on them!

:e2coffee:
 

Al X.

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I absolutely use real people as the base models for some of the characters in my novels - in terms of physical appearance and mannerisms. It helps a lot with character description and development.
 
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mrsmig

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An individual who'd trashed me in the theatrical community got added to my first book as a nameless, one-off horse thief. I doubt anyone would recognize him from the less-than-a-dozen word description, but I know who it is, and at the time, it gave me a mean sense of satisfaction. We've since mended our fences, so I'm really rather glad I didn't go further with it.

I give supporting characters the names of friends and family all the time, but I don't use their physical characteristics. For example, I combined the names of two of my nieces and gifted the result to an elderly, austere but astute male councilor who plays a major supporting role in my fantasy series. Another, lesser councilor character got the last name of a person who, back in the day, created a lot of havoc here at AW by lashing out at anyone who dared criticize his business. He got banned, but came back again and again with sockpuppet accounts trying to pull the same thing. Members who've been here a while are welcome to guess who that is. ;)
 

mschenk2016

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When I was in middle school, I had this Shop teacher I really hated. On the first day of class, eighth grade, he was taking attendance and when he got to my name he stopped and said "Wait -- YOU'RE in this class?" Another time I followed the directions wrong, so he shouted at me in front of the whole class so everybody had to stop and stare. "I ought to take this marker and put an 'I' on your forehead for Idiot! That way everyone knows they have to watch out for you!" I used both in my WIP.

Then another time in Art class I got up to ask the teacher a question or something. While I was away from my seat, a kid dipped my paintbrush in red paint and wrote "KKK" on my backpack. We made amends many years later, but I still used it.
 

Chris P

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When I was in middle school, I had this Shop teacher I really hated. On the first day of class, eighth grade, he was taking attendance and when he got to my name he stopped and said "Wait -- YOU'RE in this class?" Another time I followed the directions wrong, so he shouted at me in front of the whole class so everybody had to stop and stare. "I ought to take this marker and put an 'I' on your forehead for Idiot! That way everyone knows they have to watch out for you!" I used both in my WIP.

Then another time in Art class I got up to ask the teacher a question or something. While I was away from my seat, a kid dipped my paintbrush in red paint and wrote "KKK" on my backpack. We made amends many years later, but I still used it.

Man, sometimes I think people are the worst part of humanity.
 

Silenia

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To a degree, but more on a "taking inspiration" level than outright basing my characters on real people. The latter doesn't tend to work well for me, anyway--when my character is basically "person I know (with the serial numbers filed off) deposited straight into my work", it tends to lead to me writing what I'd expect the Original Person, with their experiences and circumstances, to do in a particular situation, instead of what would make sense for the character with their own experiences and circumstances to do. Not ideal.

Then there's the fact that whatever emotions I am feeling towards that specific person at the time of writing tend to influence my characterization, which opens the door to inconsistent characterization if those emotions change due to RL circumstances.

But I've definitely borrowed annoying habits from folks I know when I needed an annoying habit for a character, took-and-adapted actual actions that showed me someone had a problematic trait to instead show said problematic trait in one of my characters, and similar such things.
 

Kat M

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I sometimes use people I know as a starting point, not just for antagonists but in general. Then I let the story take them wherever they need to go, and they often end up rather different from the real person. In my current novel, there's a funny example of this. One of my protagonists needed a friend, a couple that she and her husband could be close to. I based them on very close friends of mine, took their names and a few of their traits. As I developed the novel, one half of this couple evolved into a major antagonist, and he got more and more obnoxious. Now he's an insufferable boor who is very cruel to the protagonist toward the end of the book. What started as a tribute to my close friends turned into characters whose names I have to change so that my friends won't think they are based on them!
In my WIP there's one character who ended up being very much like my mother: nurturing, passionate about parenting, unconditionally loving. She adores that character, and thinks he's very much like her late father. (I wouldn't know, given the "late" part of the equation.)

Other readers, however, have pointed out how claustrophobic both of this character's children feel because he's always THERE in their business when they need space and independence. I've been playing that aspect up in edits because I love the idea of a deeply flawed character that some people can still adore.

I feel like we might have to have a "Mom, he really isn't you/Grandpa" talk at some point . . .

ETA: Apparently the actual villain reminds folks in the know of my (former) bandleader, so I must have needed some writing therapy.
 

TeresaRose

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In my WIP there's one character who ended up being very much like my mother: nurturing, passionate about parenting, unconditionally loving. She adores that character, and thinks he's very much like her late father. (I wouldn't know, given the "late" part of the equation.)

In a few of my works there's one character who is very much like my mother. Not nurturing, not loving, narcissistic, abusive, dishonest, two-faced.
 
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Pterofan

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Oh yeah. This is another writer. We were on a group (5 people) writers' blog. This person decided I was a threat, for reasons I'm still not sure about, and went on the attack by trashing my characters and "fixing" my posts, undermining any plot points I was trying to set up. (For example, if I'd try to write a murder mystery, they'd post the next day with a solution, while making my characters look like blithering idiots in the process.) I finally, and publicly, called them on it, and they stormed off the blog in a huff. That was six years ago, and this person still takes occasional jabs at my characters on their own fiction blog. It wouldn't surprise me at all if some day they make me the villain in one of their stories. By name.

I've considered putting that person into a book or story as the bad guy, and even came up with a couple of plots, but the writing always stalled so nothing came of it. My subconscious is clearly smarter than I am. I've decided the best way I can tick them off is to write and publish a book that has absolutely nothing to do with that person, the situation, or any of the storylines created on the blog. Just ignore them entirely. It's just as satisfying, and legally far safer. :evil
 
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Fiender

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It wasn't a villain, but I did explicitly put one of my friends into my books when I was younger, and that ultimately made me feel very awkward upon re-reading it. I've never done anything like that intentionally since, but the amount of protaganists in my books that have abusive fathers and absent mothers is... *ahem*.

I think, to an extent, all of our characters have a little of us in their personalities. At least, if we're doing it right. My protags have some of the flaws I struggle with, and the strengths I think I have, or that I wish I had. My antags sometimes reflect the things about myself I don't like, or they aim to invoke the fears and discomforts in my life.
 

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