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Is This Based on Anyone You Know?

It's one version of the question every author is asked. Either that, or 'is this story in any way autobiographical?'

I can see why it drives some writers nuts. How do you answer it? Yes AND no. Yes, at the end of the day, where else can it all come from except my head, wherein resides the sum total of my experience and exposure to ideas? And no, because it's not like your mind is a database from which you just copy and paste into your manuscript.

Take today, for example. I have two male characters - Hasi, a young religious fanatic, and Sesom, a disillusioned, slightly older fanatic looking for a way to revive his passion. They meet in a remote cave, they share their feelings, they find common ground....

I didn't expect them to fall in love. I mean that. When they finished Chapter 38, lying so close together 'they could feel the swell and sink of each other's lungs' - you can search all my notebooks where I scribble down my plans and my plot ideas. You won't find anything that says, 'must remember to out Hasi and Sesom'. I was just as surprised as anyone.

Is it that non-writers can only grasp the idea that characters are shaped mundanely, mechanically, the way someone builds a patio? Maybe, if the gods smile on me and I'm ever famous enough to be asked THE DREADED QUESTION, I wonder if I'll have the time to relax the audience, maybe talk them through a meditation/visualisation process so they can see for themselves the kind of unexpected stuff that seems to rise up out of nowhere.

No, you're right, probably not.

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January 2015

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