There is something magical about meeting a person in real life who resembles your fictional character.
Trust me the experience will make you take a sharp intake of breath and may even result in you being a little unsteady on your feet.
Standing in front of someone who looks and acts just like the person in your novel can be mind-blowing.
I experienced this a few days ago in a coffee shop. A man, stood in front of me in the queue, was basically one of my draft novel’s main characters; Mikey. Just like my character Mikey, this person was devilishly handsome, had an eye for the ladies and a cheeky boyish smile. Readers – I struggled to remain in control of my emotions!
After purchasing my coffee, wiping my sweaty brow and watching him like a hawk (for a period of time) I sat down and trawled Google to see whether any other authors were experiencing this phenomenon of characters appearing in real life or was it just me. Thankfully I am not alone!
To my relief I found this article about comic science fiction author William Gibson (perhaps best known for the acclaimed Neuromancer) who tweeted a strange ‘sighting’: the character Milgrim from his recent books Spook Country and Zero History.
I also discovered that author Alan Moore himself has mentioned in an interview that he once saw one of his creations, the mage John Constantine (from the Hellblazer series), in a sandwich bar in London. “All of a sudden, up the stairs came John Constantine,” Moore revealed. “He looked exactly like John Constantine. He looked at me, stared me straight in the eyes, smiled, nodded almost conspiratorially, and then just walked off around the corner to the other part of the snack bar.”
Now my character did not give me a smile and nod (this could be a very different blog post if he had done….*blonde writer pictures devilishly handsome real life character giving her the nod as she orders her skinny latte* sigh!) but the whole literary experience got me thinking about how to handle this interesting situation. My best advice is to follow my lead; stay calm and in control.
Here are the things NOT to do when you meet someone who resembles your fictional character:
- Stand and stare at them for ages with wide eyes and an open mouth.
- Squeal with literary excitement at them.
- Go sit on the other side of the room, pop on some dark glasses and peer at them from behind a menu.
- Mutter “OMG you actually exist..in real life?”
- Say something like “oh my goodness you look just like someone I know!” – this inevitably leads to them asking you who…and before you know it you will find yourself in a very awkward situation where you are forced to explain that they are imaginary.
- Refer to them by your character’s name.
- Make a comparison between how they act in real life and how they act in your story / novel i.e. you might say something like “you are a charmer in real life and you charm the pants off everyone in my novel too!”
- Start quoting stuff from your book.
- Ask them to say a few key lines from your draft novel whilst you grab a notebook and scribble down some observations on body language and tone of voice.
- After revealing that they look like a character from your book, inform them that the character in question dies in suspicious circumstances in chapter nine and follow this with an evil laugh.
- Ask them for a selfie with you.
Have you ever come across one of your characters in real life?
Did you stay in control?
Have a great day!