From The Literary Hub:
When the name of my novel’s antihero popped up in my inbox one afternoon, I didn’t even pause for thought. I had just spent six long years with the man. Why wouldn’t he be emailing me? Even as I read the first few lines, I had no doubt this was my character writing to me. Perhaps my antihero didn’t like life out there and wanted to come back to the comfort of my imagination. Too much judgement. Too many conflicting opinions. Or maybe he wanted to complain about the story I had trapped him in—the loneliness of his exile, the loss of his childhood, all doomed to be lived out, again and again, each time the book was read.
In my own mind, the antihero I had created wasn’t fictional anymore, and neither was the imagined Bosnian town where my drama took place. I often tell students that writing is a kind of madness and the best writers are those who do not know they are mad. It’s a snappy line, but also dangerously true at times.
Novelists are used to characters intruding upon their thoughts. They insist on asking questions when you are trying to fall asleep. They whisper in your ear as you attempt to go about your day. But even so, characters don’t take on a physical form, sit down at a computer, and start sending messages to their creators halfway across the world.
Of course, the email was not from my character, but from a living, corporeal human being. And he was deeply unhappy about my use of his name in my debut novel. He had lived in Netherlands for the past two decades, not the pages of my book. He had become aware of his fictional counterpart only because his colleagues had googled him. Was it true? They asked. Was he a war criminal? Had he really been guilty of these terrible crimes? “Where there was smoke, there was fire,” the man wrote. And even though it was not yet on shelves, my book was already blackening his name. He said his wife and children would be in danger if the book even associated war crimes with his name.
. . . .
Fortunately, the book had not yet gone to print. After a panicked call to my editor, the name was changed—this time to an appellation so common it couldn’t possibly identify an individual.
Link to the rest at The Literary Hub