In the current issue of New Humanist,Vicky Simister has an interesting article in which she describes her experience of growing up in the Jehovah's Witnesses and then becoming disillusioned. I have a long-standing interest in this area so I wasn't surprised to find that a lot of Vicky's story sounded very familiar. She had faced situations that so many others have also faced – so sharing her story can be of great help to people who may be feeling very lonely as they wrestle with the same sorts of issues.
And I wasn't surprised either to notice that much of Vicky's story overlaps with the stories of Melanie and Susan, the two main characters in my current novel, The Snig's Foot. Which hints at a question many writers have asked themselves: Is it okay to base characters in a novel upon real people? As that question on a forum for wannabe novelists and it is likely to spark off some worthwhile discussion – especially about avoiding obvious pitfalls.
I would like, for now, to put the question the other way round: Is it okay not to base your characters on real people? And I want to say that isn't okay at all. Characters in fiction have to be real, believable people. And if they are, then there will be some people out there who will think, hey, that's how I am. Or else, isn't that just like so-and-so?
Of course, some people go through experiences which are utterly different from anything most folk know about and their stories might appear a bit far-fetched at times. Come off it, some might say, nobody believes that, do they? Or, nobody would do that, would they? Ah, but they do. So take a look at Vicky's story. And if any of you have a similar story to tell, I'd love to hear from you.