We’ve all heard the saying, “never upset a writer”. But why? Well the simple fact is that we will hurt, maim, or even kill you in one of our stories, and you won’t even know about it. You should have been warned by that t-shirt you saw on Facebook saying “Careful, or you will end up in my novel…”
Many writers, including the likes of JK Rowling, have said that they often create villains based on the people they have met and disliked. From my own experience, I have several villains and victims lined up to be featured in my novels, all loosely characterised on people who have upset me in one way or another.
As Paul Bettany’s character (Geoffrey Chaucer) says in A Knight’s Tale: “I will eviscerate you in fiction. Every pimple, every character flaw. I was naked for a day; you will be naked for eternity.”
It’s not just cold-callers, the tax man, and sales people who may find themselves immortalised in ink though. Take a look at Facebook and Twitter, and a whole host of forums, where flame wars have begun. I wonder how many of those who made snide, bigoted, patronising, ignorant, and offensive comments, have been turned into some hideous character?
Surely this is libel though? How do so many writers get away with it? Yes, of course there have been cases where someone has sued a writer for a character based on them. But for the most part, writers are intelligent people. The character won’t look like you, act like you, talk like you, or even be the same gender as you, but in the writer’s mind – it is you.
It should also be pointed out that should you ever try to argue with a writer, they are usually walking dictionaries and very good at coming up with intelligent-seeming arguments using long words. This is a clever trick to make their opponent look like an idiot. Go read an article with a writer where the interviewer is trying to put them down – you’ll soon see what I’m talking about!
So, before you think about upsetting a writer, or committing slander or libel (we have lawyers who deal with that too), you may want to remember that old adage “The pen is mightier than the sword“