In my writing experience, real people morph into the characters in a story. Sometimes I simply use a saying that's long been in my head, first heard from a friend or relative and never forgotten. The reader doesn't know, but once I write it down, the saying is absorbed and a real person infiltrates part of the fictional character's personality. A teacher friend once reminded me of the line from Macbeth “what's done cannot be undone,” and her stoicism was delivered to the character of Mama in The House on Harrigan's Hill at the end of Chapter 21.
Most often, however, I recall anecdotes that become a moment of insight for the fictional character. For instance, my real parents had many times related the afternoon sometime in the 1950's when they drove down Sepulveda Boulevard and passed Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall driving their Rolls-Royce away from the MGM Studios in Culver City, California.
In his grief, my father told me about a vision of my mother sitting with him in their Cougar as he drove to the market one day soon after her death.
A mix of these two memories formed the scene at the end of Chapter 23 in The House on Harrigan's Hill. The main character in her description of a good marriage, in contrast to the troubled relationships of her relatives, dwells on her only child and the daughter's spouse. In true life, the marriage was not perfect, but fiction is what you make it. And the scene ended the story of a good marriage.
Amazing how the writer's mind works.
-original post 8-15-2013