There are always people in a culture who stand out, and become famous (or infamous) for something they do. Brainstorming the famous and infamous people in your world can help flesh out your storyworld, and may give you new story ideas! After all, if someone is well-known for something, their story is likely to be very interesting.
Famous people can take many forms, and here are some different kinds of famous people to start you off:
- Actors/Singers/Other popular celebrities (including, perhaps, people who are famous for being famous like Paris Hilton)
- Important government/military figures (rulers, presidents, war heroes, generals, ambassadors, etc)
- People with unusual qualities (rare diseases, strange talents, unusual appearances)
- People who’ve done crazy things or broken records
- Notorious people (murderers, con artists, mob leaders, various government people like Richard Nixon, criminals in general)
- People who’ve done amazing things (inventors, scientists, daredevils, athletes, activist, people who’ve fought for social change)
There are probably more kinds of famous people than just on this list, but that’s a starting point, at least. It’s important to remember that people can be famous for good things, bad things, or both. I’ll bring up the example of Nixon again - He was famous for being President of the US, which could be considered a good thing, but he was also famous for Watergate, which was a giant scandal that caused him to resign.
You should also keep the opinions of the general populace of your world in mind. There were some people who obviously liked Nixon very much, even though he ended up extremely unpopular toward the end. Not everyone is going to like the famous person in question, but not everyone is going to hate them either. Some people might be neutral, as well. Here are some things to think about when considering the opinion of the general population:
- Has the famous person done anything controversial? If so, why is it controversial?
- Has the famous person committed a crime? Were they caught? Was someone else blamed? Did they pay off the authorities to hide the crime?
- Has the famous person done something that’s benefited a lot of people? If so, which group of people (this could be good or bad, depending on the group in question. For instance, they could have done a lot of charity work. They also could have helped extend tax breaks for the rich, which hurts the middle class and lower class)? Is what they’ve done problematic?
- How well are they generally accepted among the public? Are they charismatic? Are there unusual things about them that make them controversial (i.e. sexual orientation, opinions that differ from the norm)?
- What’s their presence like? Are they someone anonymous, like Banksy? Or are they someone who gets up on stage and makes a big to-do, like Oprah? Somewhere in between?
- Do they like fame? Did they intend to be famous, or did it happen by accident? Do they want it gone? Do they try to avoid paparazzi and the media, or do they drink the attention right up?
- Are they alive, or a historical figure? If they’re dead, were they famous while they were alive, or did the fame come post-humously? What was their life like?
- Are there other members of their family who are famous, or is it just them? Does their family/spouse/etc factor into their fame (do they bring them out in public, keep them secret, or have a family at all)?
- What is the famous person’s opinion of the public? Do they think the public are mostly good-hearted, earnest people? Or that they’re dumb sheep? Or vengeful tantrum-throwing babies?
- Is the famous person friends with other famous people? If so, who? And why?
- How much of an impact does the famous person have on the public, and on the world? Do they have a lot of influence? Does the government not take them seriously (or consider them an enemy)?
- What sort of people like this famous person? Are they well-liked by most everybody, or does only a specific demographic like this person? Why?
- At what age did they become famous? How has that affected them?
- How much of a struggle did they have to get to where they are now? What was it like? What obstacles did they face?
Those are some questions to start you out, and hopefully you can flesh out any famous person you use in your story! These guys don’t have to be main characters, but they certainly can make your storyworld’s background more interesting, and give society some context. Showing how a famous person is viewed and what they are like reveals more about what the culture is like, and that can be an easy way to weave cultural details into your story. Have fun, and good luck!