I have certain people in my life who insist on reading way too much into my writing. As it is, I do my best to avoid giving my characters initials or names or appearances that coincide even a little with anyone I know. Still I get "clearly $character was modeled after $person" or "so-and-so said you modeled $character after me...I'm nothing like that!" These meddlers are driving me nuts.

What do you do with such people? I don't care what they think per se, but they occasionally stir up trouble with others.

  • Have you considered the possibility that you unconsciously have modeled some characters after people you know? After all, inspiration is usually based on what we observe around us, and it might be that the mental model you have of a certain personality, actually comes from someone close to you. At the time of writing though, it appears as a thought that just pops into your head, and so you make no conscious connection to the source of inspiration.
    – erikric
    Nov 23, 2010 at 7:34
  • I can't imagine that I wouldn't have caught such a comparison in editing, especially since at this point I'm so obsessively worried about offending someone.
    – HedgeMage
    Nov 24, 2010 at 2:47

3 Answers 3


That's hard to say, there are always going to be people reading more into things then you intended. Look at all the dissections of Shakespeare saying his plays are all about supporting the royal family, or making fun of them. The same thing is true about Moby-Dick, Catcher in the Rye and any other popular book. Even Harry Potter has been subjected to this, both for support witchcraft, and as an attacking on the previous government.

Even worse there is a group of thought that these things are still there even if the writer didn't intend for them, or actively tried not to put them there in the first place. The idea that the intent of the author doesn't matter personally bothers me.

Personally, I would take them aside and tell them that wasn't the case at all, that you didn't base anyone on anybody, and the fact that they acted 'wrong' helps prove this. And that, in the end, it's just a story. If they have a sense of humor about it, tell them it's all wrong and given them the craziest explanation you can think of, but from the sound of it that wouldn't work for these people.

In the end though, all you can do is tell them that they are wrong, and then try to ignore them.

  • 1
    You are so right...I just had it in my pretty little head I wouldn't have to deal with this particular PITA unless my work became famous. :P
    – HedgeMage
    Nov 22, 2010 at 23:13
  • Just make sure than when you have a best seller you change tack by telling them they are wrong, and then flaunting your wealth in their general direction rather than ignoring them.
    – mootinator
    Nov 22, 2010 at 23:26
  • 1
    "The idea that the intent of the author doesn't matter personally bothers me." +1 for that. None of the people in my life seem to think author's intent is worth a damn.
    – Maulrus
    Nov 23, 2010 at 0:39
  • I used to have this problem with song lyrics, and ignoring it is pretty much the best you can do. Nov 23, 2010 at 1:12

I once sat in on a class on Tolkien, where the professor extrapolated everything into an extended metaphor on World War 2. Now, I'm pretty much equally geeky on Tolkien and World War 2, and I had a number of objections to this. Sure you can draw parallels, but he wrote the books during WWII, of course it affected the writing. That doesn't mean that he drew from one to create the other.

What I eventually realized was that, as an artist, you have no control of what the reader/viewer/whatever will draw from your work. When they work it into their worldview, anything can come out. And will. They'll draw inferences that you never intended, they'll see similarities that you didn't create.

The best thing that you can do is keep your mouth shut, and smile a little smile. If you produced a truly enduring work, people will still be agruing over what you meant long after you're dead, and if you let on that really you were thinking about the hot barrista at your favorite coffee shop...That'll ruin the whole thing.

  • 2
    Why do so many people believe, that a man who knows WWII mostly from radio/newspaper and on the other side fought as soldier in WWI would use WWII as the source of his bestseller? Nov 23, 2010 at 21:47

Politely point out that the noticed facet is just a fraction of the character.

People like to simplify things. No matter how hard you try, they will always believe that some facet of your character is modeled after real person X -- even if all other facets don't fit at all.

In a way, they are right; no author can make up something from nothing, especially not when it comes to characters. We only ever combine our experience and memories in new ways. But that doesn't mean character Y is person X.

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