How much of your characters are based on real people?

One of my very first projects since starting to learn to write fiction is to try and create characters. They need to be believable but, quirky enough to stand out, get your attention and set this book aside from others.

While struggling with this aspect of fiction I wonder how much of your character is based on a real person. How much do you keep from reality, how much do you change or embellish? Or are you so creative, the entire character comes from your imagination?

We obviously do not want our characters to be recognizable as to exact identity of a real person but, we wish them to have universal traits, challenges and problems.

I suspect most authors and writers combine the two methods. Their characters are based on a real life person, but changed enough to keep the writer out of trouble.

Recently I read a very long biography of Marcel Proust; he himself was quite a character and a unique personality. Much of what he left in his notes and letters indicate he used real people for his models. Sometimes, the characters were actually based on two or more real people taking traits from one and other identifying marks from another.

It seems to make it easier to start with a real person in mind and then make that character uniquely yours. Adding your own creative elements means you can create an even more complicated person than the one your character is based upon.

This is a pressing subject for me as I try to learn how to write fiction and any advice or point of view would be welcome. I believe all fiction writers have a method they use, but it would be so helpful to new writers if they had some direction.

Would love to hear your solution to this writing problem.

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