There’s a question. Does anybody recognise themselves – or others? Do writers go out of their way to write about people they know? The music world had ‘You’re so vain’ and spent decades trying to get Carly Simon to explain who it was – it turned out to be at least three people and I am sure they weren’t joined at the hip.
I must admit having read Malcolm Pryce’s film-noir novels about Aberystwyth, I have stopped and thought ‘I know that character’. I am of the same age group, give or take a year or so, and the same town. I do recognise some familiar traits in people who appear in the books, but are they true mannequins of the flesh and blood individuals? I don’t think so.
For me, when writing, I like to feel the emotion of a character. This did stop me writing a novel set in the Penrhyn Quarry strike once, as it made me feel too down!
Many of my scenes are set in a time or an event that I cannot compare notes on, so I have to use what I have felt in past times. I’ve never been in a train crash (God willing), but I have had the misfortune to suffer a crash in the back of a car that rolled to a standstill. I remember the helplessness, the slow motion and falling into shock. It’s all useful for a scene.
I have also found that real life can sometimes offer better plot directions when adapted to your stories. I’m not thinking Darwin Awards here, let’s face it, some realities are just plain bizarre. No, there have been sometimes experiences in life that have helped generate scenes. Conversations that have stuck in the memory. In the Forest Brothers novel, there is a scene at the Hill of Crosses on Hiiumaa. I do describe what I felt on my own personal visit there.
Sometimes events in the newspapers of the past that have helped form the nucleus of a storyline. Long lost mini dramas that can add to the plot. The witness reports of the shelling of Talinn is an example.
They do say the protagonist in your first written novel is yourself. I don’t recognise it in the story (Forest Brothers was my fifth written work, by the way), others might. Everything’s subjective. I think my characters are all made up. I don’t think I’ve ever met them.Or at least not completely. I may have borrowed a scene or two, a conversation may be adapted. In all of my 53.5 years, I have had millions of conversations, scenes, events. Even then, most times, the story is still reliant on what I can create purely from my imagination.
So have you appeared in one of my novels? Sadly not. Does a situation look familiar? Possibly, but only for a moment. Do the stories feature any fiction created by myself? Of course. My novels do have a historical background, that much is set in stone, the human story is always woven around those constraints.