Authors Answer 152 – Writing Real People in Fiction

In high school, I read a book called The Wars, by Timothy Findley.  In this novel, the main character finds himself in a house with Virginia Woolf, who was a real person. In fact, she was an author. But she was appearing in a fictional novel. Naomi Novik has used real historical figures in her Temeraire series, as well. Books based on history and our real world quite likely will have real life characters. But what if we based the book on a real person? Who would we write about?

Question 152 – If you could write a fictional book about any famous person, living or dead, who would it be?

Gregory S. Close

I think I’d like to write a biography of Boudica. Celtic warrior queen fighting the fight against the might of Rome? Inspirational but tragic. I’d like to highlight more women in history, especially those in what’s considered atypical roles, because the history books have been written by, and predominantly feature, white dudes.

Paul B. Spence

It might be a little difficult to write a fictional book. If I were to write fiction about a real person, I believe I might write one about Tesla, because why not?

D. T. Nova

Probably Nikola Tesla. He was remarkable enough in real life, and his popular reputation makes wilder stories entirely plausible.

H. Anthe Davis

Ergh, I don’t know if I could do that, and I wouldn’t really want to. I don’t write fanfiction because I don’t like playing with other people’s characters — I feel like I can’t keep them canon, which is important to me — so to write something about an actual (once-)living human being just compounds that problem. Also, I’m not so interested in anyone out there that I would be driven to write anything that hasn’t already been written. I much prefer to pull in traits of people I admire and make them part of my characters, so that I can explore them freely.

Jean Davis

I love reading historical fiction, but I don’t think I’d be very good at writing it. The research involved really isn’t my thing. That means it would have to be someone living and those options are rather vast. I’m going to go with writing a fictional book about George R.R. Martin and the secret maniacal glee he has about making us all wait for his next book and how it’s all a grand experiment to see how far readers will be pushed before they get mad and leave or call the tv version good enough. Will his last book not sell at all or go gangbusters? If nothing else, it would give us something to read while we wait…or not.

Tracey Lynn Tobin

I thought about it for a good while, but I honestly couldn’t think of a decent answer to this question. The thing is that I don’t really idolize anyone. I admire people, I think that their work/art/etc is wonderful, but I don’t really put people up on a pedestal in a way that would make me want to write about them, fiction or otherwise. That said, if I had to come up with some kind of answer, I probably wouldn’t mind writing about Jared Padalecki (one of the stars of Supernatural), because he’s someone I really admire for personal reasons, and I could just write a Supernatural-style book, which would probably be tons of fun for me.

C E Aylett

Edward Whymper, the first mountaineer to climb the Matahorn in 1865. My Great grandfather (? great-great? Not sure) was his valet and went with him on his expeditions. I’d like to understand what it would have been like back then for him, how tough it would have been. Writing about Edward Whymper would probably be the closest I could get to my ancestor.

Eric Wood

A fictional book about a real person… Hmmm I think I would write about a certain president and his one way trip to Mars to settle America’s first colony. It fails, of course.

Jay Dee Archer

I would not write about someone living or who has close relatives that are still living. I’m not writing a biography, I’m trying to fictionalize some part of their life. The more ancient, the better, I think. But I like the idea of alternate history, especially if it’s fantasy. Mostly because of a possibility of an ancestral link to William the Conqueror’s companion, William Malet, I would probably use him as a main character in a book. What I would write remains unknown.

How about you?

If you could write a book featuring any historic figure, who would it be? Let us know in the comments section below.

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