Hello, all! I’m Jane, your part-time Whore, here to fill in for Allison while she rests up.
As my erotica-writing husband used to say, “Never sleep with an erotica writer if you don’t want strangers to know what you look like naked.”
My earliest published works were also erotica, and though it might seem counterintuitive, erotica writers are far more likely than anyone else to write about people they know. Which is not to say that erotica writers are necessarily having all of that sex they’re writing about (in most cases, probably not; writers don’t have that kind of time). But in addition to those “band camp” experiences and the antics of proud, self-proclaimed sluts, erotic fantasies are built on missed connections, what-ifs, and unfulfilled attractions.
In epic fantasy, however, I’m far more likely to make up characters out of whole cloth. I’m inventing entire worlds, so why not people them with my own imagination? I don’t like to use photos of models or actors as inspiration for my writing either; it’s fun to find pictures afterward to represent the ones in my head, but I find it distracting to have an external reference for someone I’m inventing.
But there are a few exceptions. In my series set in Russia, I based many of the settings in my books on real places I visited while I was there, and that seems to have spilled over into the people I met. I can’t think of anyplace else I’ve consciously done this in my writing, but there’s at least one character I based on someone I met there simply because that person’s life touched me, and I figured I’d never see them again. Writing the person into my fictional world was a kind of homage.
More often are the people I’ve seen while riding the bus to work or getting a latte at Starbucks who fit the image I had in my head of a certain character I was already working on. Afterward, those people tend to influence my mental image of the character.
For the most part, though, I try to avoid mixing fiction with reality. Who needs the hassle if someone “recognizes” himself in a character and takes exception? (Although there’s a guy loudly blathering outside my window right now who may have changed my mind. I’m thinking he’ll make an appearance as a corpse in my next book.)
Whatever the writer’s intentions, I think it’s inevitable that fictional characters will have bits and pieces of real people, just as visual art uses models. But a painting that uses a model is often about someone else entirely. When it’s not, it’s a portrait. Which is biography, not fiction. I’m far more comfortable with lies. ;)