Anyone who’s ever even thought about writing has heard the phrase “Write about what you know”. And, as a general rule I’d agree with that. But, the issue that scares me more is what is so easy to do – write about who you know.
I imagine someday in the future sitting at a book signing for my latest novel (a boy can dream, right?) and seeing a face that looks familiar. And then having that person lean forward and say – “Hi. It’s been a long time, hasn’t it? The character Audra in this book was based on me, wasn’t she?”
I’ve moved around many times and met more than my share of interesting people. And of course there are many memories attached to these people that are complete stories in themselves. Whether it’s the woman I went out with for a 2nd(!) date who proceeded to take me to a dive bar after dinner, have far too much to drink and start introducing me to all of her many bar friends as her husband. And then, as I’m driving her home, to have her start punching me in the face as I’m driving 70 down the highway, and all the while she’s screaming and calling me Steve.
Or how about the friend from years back who bought and old AMC Gremlin for $50, painted over all of the rust with black and yellow paint to make it look like a yellow-jacket, and never bothered to replace the missing seat belts or floor boards. And then he always insisted on driving wherever we went.
Or maybe the ex-girlfriend who… Or the college roommate that… Or the mentally unstable football coach, the distant cousin, the co-worker, the French tutor…
There are so many people who have been a part of my life in one way or another. Many who were incredibly ‘unique’ and many who were parts of crazy/unforgettable/life-altering moments in my life. All of these people (and there are plenty of others that I’ve temporarily forgotten who pop up in my mind occasionally) have had major impacts on my life in one way or another, making me the way I am today. And I’m not even going to take the time to figure out which ones should receive credit for that and which ones deserve blame…
These are the best people and experiences to draw from when creating the worlds within my novels. Just not the exact, real them. Versions of them, adaptations, compilations instead. That way nobody surprises me at the signing table someday after finding themself within those pages.
But, just to protect me from such embarrassments, this will be printed in the front of the book:
“This is a work of fiction. Any similarities to anyone living or dead is purely a coincidence, and really should have been corrected from how they were written in the rough draft. So get over yourself!”