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Countering “Hey, I don’t like what you wrote about me!”

Okay, I admit it, I use real people as the models for some of the people in my stories. My two leading ladies in my Morelville Mysteries series for example, are based on myself (very loosely) and on my spouse (somewhat loosely). Some of my other characters have appearances like people I know – but they don’t act like them. Other characters have similar traits and mannerisms to people I know but they look nothing like them. No character in my stories ever carries the name of their model, if they had one.

The thing about names is – I’m going to digress here for a minute – is that there are only so many that are plausible to use for a mystery story set in a present day small Ohio village and slightly larger neighboring town. If I was writing futuristic fantasy or sci-fi I could make up crazy names but that just doesn’t fly in Morelville. If I name someone in a story ‘Delores’, that doesn’t mean that any real ‘Delores’ that I know (I knew one but I lost track of her years ago) is being portrayed.

I purposely didn’t have family members read my books because they are models for some characters. You can’t make some of the stuff they really do up. It’s just too good not to use. Names, ages and appearances have been changed, of course, to protect the innocent and not so innocent but they’d definitely see themselves should they read my stuff. I did give the books to a select few friends to read. NONE of them are portrayed in the stories and they won’t be…unless they want to be. I need them for moral support and their input on what works and what doesn’t and what I have dead wrong.

I’ve had a couple of people that I know read the first two books and see themselves in them, so far. In one case, the person was dead wrong. He wasn’t in the story at all but imagined I was talking about him. In another case, the person was dead on that I used them as a character model and she didn’t like it one whit but I portrayed her traits, habits and mannerisms exactly as they are. She refuses to see it. She has a different name in the book and I’ve described her appearance very differently. If she sues me, she sues me. Unless her mother reads the book too and sees her in it too, she doesn’t have a case.

There’s one person that’s going to be a stickler for me. The model is just nosy enough to buy one of the books and read it and I know see themselves in it. The portrayal is also dead on and not at all flattering. So how do I counter that? I don’t yet know but I’ve been thinking about it because it’s going to happen and I need to be ready. Thoughts?