Tag Archives: Jack Rosenthal

Character: ‘Try writing fiction…’

When I was a teenager my father wrote a novel in which he included pen portraits of us. I was depicted as an American kid who said, ‘Hi!’ a lot. A few years later my sister wrote a story which included a character called Paul, who was strangely similar to me. I said to her, ‘Try writing fiction.’ But since starting to write for myself this particular dog has come back to bite me in the bum. I notice in a couple of the posts that I have said that I am writing a character based on someone I once knew, and later that I could not just take someone I had met in real life and put them in a story. So what is the truth? I don’t know. And I think that’s one of the reasons I’m struggling with that particular character. The more real she seems the less she behaves like a real character; the further away I take her, the more she loses vitality. Jack Rosenthal said that as soon as you put too much fact in a story it starts to spiral downwards; but if you can put it at one remove then in spirals upwards. Certainly, in most of the characters I have written I recognise where they have come from, but they are not 100% portraits.