It has started again: my 14th book, Secrets of a Dangerous Woman, was released last month and already readers are trying to guess who the minor characters are in real life.
It's no secret that the series is set in the real town of Lumberton, North Carolina, which is located less than 20 miles from the South Carolina border in the southeastern section of the state. The main characters are unlike anyone in this town (or I think, any other) but since the book's release, I've been asked numerous times if the minor characters are patterned after real people living in Lumberton.
The short answer is: No.
They can hypothetize all they want but characters like the woman who thinks she's psychic (but isn't) and the doctor still performing surgeries at the age of 102 are not real people; not even close to it. They are figments of my imagination.
When I first began writing suspense/thrillers for publication, I learned of a New York Times bestselling author who was sued for every book she wrote. As a result, she formed a separate corporation for each book so when the cases were settled, the other party could not get proceeds from any book except one. Why was she sued? Because people recognized themselves in her books. They might have been the real victim of a crime or a family member of a murdered victim or a suspect that was acquitted. And the descriptions were so close that they were convinced anyone else could identify them, also. And they had issues with her profiting from their misfortunes.
I am constantly watching people. I pick up on a look in the eye, a nervous tick, a particular stance, a birthmark. And when I am creating the characters for my books--whether major or minor--I borrow characteristics, a little bit here and a little bit there. The result might be that a particular character has one characteristic of a real person I may know or know of; but no more than that. They are unique, such as each human being is uniquely special.