Will the characters be real or invented ? Characters – that is, people - cannot be invented, they must be based on persons drawn from real life… But no single person, as he exists, is concentrated or typical enough for literature; something must be added, something taken away. In every person there are characteristics typical of many people… Sometimes actual historical events and people will be portrayed, often composite incidents and characters…
I put the pen aside and idly began to read press cuttings which lay on the table.
‘John Wren was reading a copy of Fortune, the American business magazine,’ I read the interview by Herald journalist, Noble. ‘He put it down. I said, “Mr Wren, have you heard the news? The Hardy jury has returned a verdict of Not Guilty!” Not an emotion showed on the face of the seventy-nine-year-old financier. There was a long silence, broken only by his occasional repetitions, “Not Guilty… extraordinary!”… With a pale blue shawl around her shoulders, grey-haired Mrs Wren opened the kitchen door herself. She was white-faced but composed. She said, “The verdict is nothing more than I expected, that’s all I can say.”’Ross Franklyn seemed as if he had been reading over my shoulder: ‘Well, John and Nellie West acted in character,‘ he said.
‘Yes,’ I replied simply.
What really counts is not that a figure has been made a composite of fiction and real. That's how narrative works. What counts most is that they act in character, in the text and vice versa. It's up to us to work out whether or not they do.