Sunday, August 22, 2010

"That Person's Life Would Make for a Great Book!"

Have you ever had a friend come up to you, rolling their eyes, and saying, "that person's life would make a great book!"?  Excuse me folks, I'm going on a rant this week.

I had such a moment (not for the first time) this week.  The problem with that is that the person in question is usually not a strong character.  The reason you would NOT want to write a book about their trials and tribulations is that they can't deal with them, or don't want to deal with them.  Backing up - maybe that's a little bit harsh.  Let me explain myself.

I've had several experiences for the record book this week.  Let's start with #1.  I taught a class, at the request of the students.  During that class, there was one person who stopped learning.  She took her hands off the keyboard, crossed her arms and leaned over the shoulder of the woman beside her.  I asked if she needed help.  "No, that's okay.  I'll just watch."  Pardon me, but didn't I just give up a couple hours out of my day to help you?  and now you're saying you don't want to learn after all?  I'm going to leave that story right there because if I continue on, I'm going to get myself into trouble.  Suffice it to say I was not happy.

Let's move on to person #2.  The Excuse Queen.  The kind of person who doesn't take responsibility for herself, there's always some reason why she can't fit in and do the same things everyone else does.  Again, I don't want to go into great details here, but I'm sure we all know someone like this.  Someone who can't get to work on time because they're too tired?  Forget about the trials the people next to you are going through, it's all about you.  The fact that other people can manage to get to work on time and even early, despite greater obstacles, doesn't matter.  (That's the minor complaint, folks.)  This person believes their life is so difficult (and I'm sure, for her, it is).  Hey.  I've been there.  I've lived through difficult days where I wasn't sure I was going to make it.  The difference is that I didn't walk around telling everyone I met about my woes.  I got help.  So this person?  The one that people tell me I should write her life story because it's one thing after another?  Here's my take on this one, individual circumstance.  She would make a poor heroine in a story because, for starters, she can't seem to help herself.  Heroines have to be strong, even if they don't know they're strong.  The obstacles this woman has to overcome in her life ("I'm just so worn out!") are not insurmountable obstacles.  They are barriers she's created in her own mind and barriers she invents to use for excuses.  (Is my lack of sympathy/tolerance showing yet?)

Okay, to play fair (like I said, it has been one of those weeks), there are people that seem to have a black cloud hanging over them.  These are people that have REAL problems, not your everyday variety.  Those people I've read books about.  One comes to mind - and it has been a number of years so I've forgotten the title - about a bank clerk who is accused of theft.  She's a straight-laced. law abiding citizen so her life gets turned upside down by this false accusation.  Through the story she fights to prove her innocence, but the twist to the story is that in the process, she hooks up with and becomes a jewel thief.  I cried for the first three chapters of this book for the wrongly accused woman, and in spite of her turn to crime, you cheered for her by the end.  Her morals remained intact (the jewel thief part was more like Robin Hood). 

When someone's turmoil is out of their control, I'm completely sympathetic and yes, those people just might make a good story.  But the folks that are usually recommended for a story (you can't make that kind of stuff up!) are usually people that have created their owns problems and not the victims of circumstance.

Ok, enough with my rant for the day and my opinions on "people you should write about."  Thanks to my friends for their recommendations, but for some of these folks, the best I can do with these "poor, helpless" people is a supporting character role where they don't have to be strong.


  1. You will be armed with good side characters for future books based on these people though :-) Some of my favorite books have characters in them that block the protagonist at every turn simply because it's their nature to "block up the hall" while others are trying to get around. Getting aggravated by a character and reading on while yelling at the pages and waiting for the aggravating characters to get their comeuppance can be a fun book to read :-)

  2. Excellent point! Thanks for the reminder