The question was "Do you base characters on people you know?"
This is the question I'm asked most about my writing after, "Where do you get your ideas?" It was when someone asked me again recently that I decided to add it to the FAQs.
As I say in my response, the short answer is "No!" I sometimes steal bits and pieces of inspiration from real people, but I never, ever base characters on people I know. Why would I? I write fiction, and it's far more fun and far more freeing to invent my characters myself.
That said, I know other writers do soemtimes base fictional characters on real people, and there's nothing wrong with that. Back in my early teens, I wrote lots of horrible, horrible stories featuring me and my friends. I imagine a lot of writers do the same at the early stages of their writing career. And while those horrible, horrible stories have long since gone the way of the circular filing drawer (aka the bin!), maybe it was a good way to start. It certainly showed me early on how restrictive basing characters on real people can be. For a start, you've always got the voice of that real person in your ear, either actually or virtually, protesting, 'But I wouldn't behave that way!', or 'How could you do that to me?', or 'Go on, let me hook up with the hot guy!'
My characters need to live a life in the story, not a life that's an extension of their life in reality. And I need the freedom as a writer to use my characters as the story requires.
Now while I don't base my characters on real people, I most certainly steal all kinds of inspiration from real life - not all the time, but occassionally for sure. I think all writers are compulsive people-watchers to some degree. How else do we create believable characters? I've stolen the wiry, owl-eyed little guy on the bus with interesting tattoos on his hands. He helped concrete one of the characters in SeaNovel. Years ago, there was the girl on the bus with glasses perched on top of her curly head of hair, as though she'd forgotten they were there, who was the starting point for the protagonist in one of my short stories ("Still Yesterday"), which ultimately became a novel. What sort of character would look like that? I wondered. What has her so distracted she's forgotten where she put her specs? Come to think of it, bus travel is a great source of inspiration for me!
What about you?