Are my characters me? (i)

I’ve mentioned recently that I am really enjoying the novels by Elly Griffiths, set on the north coast of Norfolk and featuring a very believable character, Ruth Galloway. If it wasn’t for the fact that Elly Griffiths and I have never met, I’d think Ruth was based on me! This led me to think about characters in my novels, and came across something I wrote earlier this year; it’s a set of questions for writers to consider, and the last sentence is this:

Maybe it would be an interesting exercise to answer my own questions!

I had started the post like this:

I was thinking about characters today, not any characters in particular but about writers and their attitudes to their characters. To be honest, I only know about my own characters in my books, I haven’t actually talked to anyone else about theirs, but my thoughts came from being a reader, an avid reader, and addicted reader. If I was able to interview other writers maybe I’d be able to ask some questions about this aspect of their writing.

Here are the first six questions, and how I answer them today:

  1. Are your characters based on real people? No, although I do often use the faces of real people as a basis fro my characters. These are never people I really know, so faces I pass in the street or see in a bar or café, faces on TV – and TV personalities, anonymous faces in photographs. The characters are all completely imagined. I have however, shared a series of short stories based on real events in which I have (I hope) disguised the truth.
  2. Is your main character based on yourself? No, although I guess aspects of my personality must creep in; I think this has happened most with the main character of my Radwinter novels, although Thomas is a man and much younger than me and with many more children than I have. I actually don’t think I am really as bumbly and forgetful as he is!
  3. If the answer to the previous question is yes, then is the character a true-ish portrayal of you, or is it how you would like to be, or is it an exaggerated representation of one aspect of your own personality? No, I don’t wish to be Thomas, however I might like to have the characteristics of some of my other characters, for example the courage of Tyche Kane. Some of my characters have been teachers as I was.
  4. If your characters are based on real people to what extent, if at all, do you try and disguise their identities? See q1 – the characters based on what someone looks like are completely different. For example a chef becomes a vicar, a schoolboy becomes a guitar playing local government officer. Mind you, someone who worked in a bookshop, did become a character who worked in a bookshop, and a mechanic in a garage ditto!
  5. The same as above – and does your character have the same appearance as the person s/he’s based on? See answer above!
  6. If your character is totally imaginary, what sparked their creation? Was it because you needed a certain ‘person’ in the story, or did you decide to write about a certain type of person e.g. a detective/soldier/ /romantic lead etc? To be honest, quite often I don’t know where characters come from! Sometimes I consciously imagine them, more often they just stroll into my imagination pretty much fully formed. The biggest difficulty is often their names!

Tyche Kane is the main character in ‘The Stalking of Rosa Czekov’ as is the character inspired by a schoolboy.

The mechanic inspiration became David?Des Sullivan in ‘Flipside’

Her’s a link to the Radwinter novels:




    1. Lois

      Oh is she? I must check the dates, I would really like to visit, and then i could also meet you and Klausbernd too. I will look it up and see exactly when it is. My cousin used to live near to the reserve!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Dina

        Hello Lois, I have looked for email address but couldn’t find it;
        Elly Griffith is tremendously popular. The lunch talk is long sold out and there’s a quite a waiting list. In August we were amazed to see so many people from all the country over. She was very entertaining, signed all our books and we are now booked for the evening talk on the 7th of February. I’m going down to the reserve later today to pay (closing at 4 pm) ; I have reserved a seat for you, do you want to come? Please let know ASAP. Love Hanne


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