real or imagined.

I’m currently working on my first-ever Nanowrimo book–still. It’s a slow process. But this one feels like it could turn into something interesting, so I’m taking my time to really get it where I want it. In any case, I’ve gotten to a point in the book where my main character is going to meet someone, and that someone is cause of my current waffling.

She’s in New York City in the ’50s, and I want her to come across some Beats. So here’s my question: Does she meet Jack Kerouac, or does she meet a fictional character that has some of the same qualities?

If it’s Kerouac: I think it helps give this story some realism, obviously, since he was a real person. It definitely gives a strong sense of time, and it could be really interesting. Real life usually is better than fiction, right? He was fascinating, so it would be fun to imagine how he’d interact with my character.

If it’s a fictional character: I’m not tied down by timelines. Kerouac seems to have spent a majority of the 1950s in San Francisco, so by using a fictional Kerouac-like character, I’m not stuck in what year she can be in NYC. I also wouldn’t have to do quite as much research, which for me, would help get the story finished faster. I can waste hours and hours reading up, and am never going to feel like it was enough. I also wonder if it would be strange to use a real person whose relatives are still alive in a fictional book. A fictional character gives me more flexibility. But would it seem lame to use a character that’s similar to a real person instead of just inserting the real person?

Really, I think it comes down to me. I’m not comfortable using a real person in a fictional story and making things up for him that he may or may not have done or said. I’m worried about messing up timelines, or geographic locations, or personality traits. But I also don’t want to just take the easier way out by going with a fictionalized character. That seems too easy in a lot of ways, and I don’t know if the end product would be as good.

What would you prefer to read? Real or imagined?



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