Thank You, Albie

How real are the characters in your books? Many modern novels seem to carry disclaimers saying something along the lines of ‘any resemblance of characters in this book to real people is purely co-incidental’.

But how true – and realistic – is that? Okay, the blood-drenched axe murderer and the half-elf space pirate in the leopard skin bikini probably aren’t exactly like anyone we’ve met in real life.

Real people or characters?

However. Where do authors get their inspiration? Do we fashion believable characters purely from our imagination?

I don’t think so. I reckon we draw on our experiences. After all, one of a writer’s most important talents is their power of observation.

Our source material will be varied. It might include celebrities we’ve seen on TV, characters from films or other books… or real people we’ve met during the course of our lives. But what we do is take some of the little bits and pieces we’ve observed and use them to create a new individual suited to our particular flight of fancy.

Now I wouldn’t generally recommend basing a character completely on someone you know. Particularly if your fictional character gets up to all sorts of morally repugnant acts – whether that’s animal cruelty or sleeping around.

On the other hand, the people in our lives are a rich source of material, whether it’s for a certain mannerism or the occasional line of dialogue. Personally, I’ve only once taken a real person and dropped him into one of my novels.

There was a boy in my class at school called Albie Cooper. He had a shaven head, was as tough as nails and most people – teachers as well as fellow pupils – were a little bit wary when he was around.

Albie had a fearsome temper and you would not want to get on the wrong side of him. On the other hand, I liked him. Most of the time he was quite good-natured.

He didn’t change as he got older either. Years later I was working as a journalist and Albie came up in conversation down the local police station.

They all knew Albie. Lovely guy, they said. Except when he’d drunk too much. Because it generally took at least four coppers to hold Albie down whenever he was arrested!

So, when I was thinking of a ‘hard man’ for my novel The Tale Of Findo Gask, guess who sprang to mind? Albie was such a perfect character for the role that I only changed one letter of his surname.

Somehow, I doubt the real Albie has read my book – and if he has I really hope he didn’t mind me using his name!


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2 responses to “Thank You, Albie”

  1. harulawordsthatserve says :

    Nice post – there was a kid in my class like Albie too – I was quite fond of him and tried to keep him calm when others tried to wind him up into a rage for fun. Thanks for dropping by my blog, and for the like:-)

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