Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Careful, Or You’ll End Up In My Novel

My uncle gave me this sweatshirt for Christmas a while back and I have to say it's one of my all-time favorite things to wear. Not only is it a sure-fire conversation starter, but it's also an upfront, no holds barred warning to each and every person I stumble across in life. YOU…yes YOU may end up in one of my novels someday. Be afraid.

I was planning on doing some sort of craft post tonight. I'll be honest, though—that well is running pretty dry these days. I'm simply too tired to formulate anything coherent that won't confuse everyone—myself included. I've been busy with work and tonight I wanted nothing more than to go to bed early and hopefully get caught up on some much needed rest. This, however, was nothing but a pipe dream. My neighbors made it impossible due to their heart-pounding, mind-hurting, mood-destroying, sleep-preventing, piss-Jen-offing music—which they blared from the room directly below my bedroom. Tonight they gave me a special added bonus of blaring music from TWO rooms—the other situated below my office.

For the love of Pete.

I swear they were sent to earth as a test from God. Just how far can Jen be pushed before she cracks and goes all kung-fu on their asses? I've definitely hit my limit, so lucky for them I'm not a violent person. That's not to say I won't be seeking my revenge elsewhere.

The fools. Do they have no idea who they're messing with??

They'll regret their actions, because like it or not, the A-holes are going to end up in one of my books someday. And I shall laugh. I shall laugh heartily at their disgrace. And much rejoicing shall occur. And I shall look at my book and declare that it is Good.

Okay, maybe that's a pretty far-fetched fantasy—I highly doubt these people read—but the point is a good one. If you know a writer, or heaven forbid, SEVERAL, be wary. We are always on the lookout for new characters, and unfortunately, those around us are all open targets. We latch on to your personality quirks like noodles on a poodle. We LOVE (or hate…HATE) them. We study them. We write them into our books.

While the aforementioned assholes are just one example of revenge-oriented characters, I also write friends into books as a compliment to them. Sometimes I simply use their names, sometimes I hope to translate their personalities onto the page.

It's definitely a tricky thing. You don't want to insult someone by portraying something about them that they may not recognize or like about themselves. You don't want to reveal something private or too personal without his/her permission. All sorts of things can come up if you're not careful. I'll admit I try to avoid family members like the plague. I mean, let's face it. We ALL have some crazies in our families. A family wouldn't be a "normal" family without at least one whacko somewhere in the bloodline. I've got 'em. You've got 'em. And man wouldn't they make excellent characters? Thing is, though… your family will read your book someday. Do you really want to risk hurting or possibly even severing a relationship for the sake of a character? Hmm. Tough question, for sure. If only we could all write in a vacuum where such issues never occur. Not gonna happen, though. So choose wisely when you decide to put a real person into your books. The literary world is littered with writers who were disowned by their families for writing things a little too close to home.

But strangers….ahhhhh, strangers. And former friends…roommates gone wrong…the mean teacher who failed you on that brilliant paper you wrote in the 9th grade… Where's the harm in lifting things from them?? I mean, if it makes you feel better knowing you got revenge on someone you're not particularly fond of, who are you really hurting?

Definitely one to think on.

I'd feel guilty, but my neighbors – the music, the rather loud amorous activities (yuck), the basic way they suck as human beings – dude, they're asking for it. I'm only too willing to accommodate them. J

What about you? Lift any characters from real life lately?


  1. Jen, you surely have the neighbours from hell. Can you borrow someone's really loud, sleep-resistant toddler for a night or two, to give them a taste of their own medicine? LOL.

    As for lifting characters from real life ... oh yes. I have a couple of real historical characters in my MS - Napoleon III and his bastard, half-brother, the Duc de Morny.

    And then I have one minor, fictional character who is pretty much based on a certain person I know. One of the crack-pots in the family that you mentioned. A little bit of revenge, shall we say. And the beauty is that while this person is so self-deluded that he/she will never spot themselves in my book, a few family members who have been at the sharp end of his/her craziness certainly will. And we will all quietly enjoy the fact that this person finally gets their (fictional) comeuppance. (G)

    Writing is so much cheaper than therapy. :-)

  2. I want that sweater! Hehe.

    Cough, I think you all know I put my friends names in my stories. :) But I never put their personalities in there for the reasons you stated. Family, either. ;) However, I HAVE noticed that family members sneak in unawares. Heh, my sister pointed out glaring similarities the relationship my character has with her sisters. Heh.

    Rach-- I did the exact same thing in Petal. Evil wink. Very therapeutic too.

  3. My entire writing adventure has been self-therapy. Probably why I'm not sure if I dare let it escape from my frenzied clutches. People I know, people I've met, people I'm related to... I hope that with most of them I've mixed and matched and made up enough totally different details that I don't have any perfect matches that show to someone else, but what if I'm blind to my own writing faults?

    As for the nuts and flakes in the family bowl of granola? Yeah, I've got 'em, and I'm pretty flaky, too. ;-) Probably a good thing. "Different" seems easier to make interesting. Or maybe that's because I think Normal is merely a fictional concept.

    Best to all!

  4. Those are some awful neighbours! If I had an example like that I'm sure they'd end up in a story somewhere. But while I've taken bits and pieces of character traits, I don't think I've ever overtly written anyone in.
    Real life characters aplenty, though. Claudius, Pliny, Queen Isabella, Columbus (well, so far just his ship!), possibly Katherine of Aragon (at age 5!)... Maybe even more to come, once I reach Istanbul :-)