The problem with writing a novel that’s realistic instead of being a murder mystery, or sci-fi or fantasy or anything else, is that people who read it are going to think that they’re actually in it.
There’s a reason why novels have some version of a disclaimer on the copyright page stating that it’s a work of fiction and that names, places, events, yada yada, are imaginary or used in a fictitious manner. There’s some version of that idea written to make it clear that it’s pretty much everything that you’re going to be reading is all made up. Sure… Even the completely made up stuff is inspired by our less boring moments of reality though.
So I wonder… Who’s going to be the first person to ask me “Is so-and-so based on me?” when they read my novel. Sure. My main character has a dad, so is that dad character based on my dad? The main character has siblings, so are they based on mine? Are the ex-girlfriends based on my ex-girlfriends? And on and on…
None of the characters’ names in the book are the same as anyone in my life. I’m not going to say that “names were changed to protect the innocent” though because, after all, anyone from my life who’s been completely innocent would be far too dull to make it into the pages of the novel. And what fun would that be? So don’t be looking through the pages for your name. If you’re in there, your name isn’t going to be typed out on a single page.
And, thinking of pages, on my bookshelf there are a number of books that have little scraps of paper sticking out of the top, marking the pages that have lines I really want to remember, lines that inspire me and lines that remind me just why I write. One of the marked sections I pulled out this week highlights a line in The Book of Joe by Jonathan Tropper (one of my all-time favorite books and one that I very highly recommend if you haven’t gotten around to reading it yet) and it says:
Everyone always wants to know how you can tell when it’s true love, and the answer is this: when the pain doesn’t fade and the scars don’t heal, and it’s too damned late.
And I find that line pretty much sums up the concept of my novel. Well, one of the major storylines contained in my novel anyway. And it fits the overall style that I use when I’m writing. It’s a lot like Nick Hornby’s High Fidelity. Both authors – Hornby and Tropper – write the ‘male confessional’ kind of book and I’d say that mine fits into that general mold as well.
But the dangerous thing about that is having everyone try to figure out how much of the “confessional” is true, and where they figure into the story. Because if the main character is telling you about his life, his feelings, his secrets and all of the good stuff, it’s just more fun if you expect that there’s some truth buried deep inside.
So where is that truth? I’m not telling you. If you’re located somewhere in those 300 plus pages (under an assumed name of course because you – like me – aren’t at all innocent), you can probably figure it out for yourself. And that’s where the fun of reading begins. Right? 😀