In The Guide to Writing Fantasy and Science Fiction, I discussed a few of the many places from which you can draw inspiration for your stories: from your own life, from history, from current events, and so on. Let’s take a closer look at some of these sources of inspiration, with a few actual examples, starting with bringing into your fiction events that occurred in your own life.

Most books have some kind of disclaimer in the front of them that tells you this is a work of fiction and any resemblance to real people, events (etc.) is purely coincidental. I suppose that’s true as often as it isn’t—you do actually write purely from your imagination sometimes, and even when you end up with a character who’s suspiciously like some celebrity or political figure you weren’t necessarily conscious of that while you were writing.

But then there are the times when there’s no coincidence at all. You actually meant to base this character on George W. Bush, that character on your Aunt Sally, and the fumbling dwarf on your little brother Ralph.

If you’re writing science fiction or fantasy, it’s usually pretty easy to disguise these real people behind the various archetypes of the genre. If Bush is a dragon, Aunt Sally is a mermaid, and Ralph is a dwarf, they’ll end up feeling plenty different enough, but if you’re writing a little closer to home, those characters can get a little harder to hide.

I tend to stay away from concepting characters based entirely on real people—at least not real people I know. I want to write the best story I can, with the most lovingly realized characters, but I don’t want to alienate my friends and family in the process—or dive into the role of political pundit. Still, people I meet in real life often end up in my books, one way or another, and they often come along for the ride, with an event that I just couldn’t get out of my mind…

Read the rest in…

Editor and author Philip Athans offers hands on advice for authors of fantasy, science fiction, horror, and fiction in general in this collection of 58 revised and expanded essays from the first five years of his long-running weekly blog, Fantasy Author’s Handbook.


—Philip Athans


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About Philip Athans

Philip Athans is the New York Times best-selling author of Annihilation and a dozen other books including The Guide to Writing Fantasy and Science Fiction, and Writing Monsters. His blog, Fantasy Author’s Handbook, (https://fantasyhandbook.wordpress.com/) is updated every Tuesday, and you can follow him on Twitter @PhilAthans.
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  1. Pingback: ANOTHER POST ON THE SUBJECT OF DIALOG? | Fantasy Author's Handbook

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