Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Using "real life" in fiction

Many of the things authors write about stem from real life experiences, to varying degrees. While it's certainly true we have vivid imaginations, inspiration starts somewhere.

Sometimes its a simple event. Today I learned my nephew is engaged to be married! (Congratulations, you two!) No, that probably won't creep up in my stories, but consider all the elaborate proposals you've seen on YouTube or elsewhere. As a romance author, I'm always looking for a fun proposal, although I doubt sincerely I'd take my characters to such great lengths.

Likewise, I've used work experiences. You've likely seen memes talking about not making the author angry because they'll write you into their novel and kill you off! Yes, I've done that. Exactly once.

Real life can also backfire on you. I had a friend while I was growing up who I had a not so pleasant relationship with. I often refer to her as my best worst friend. She was always there for me, but on the flip side, she also caused me no small amount of grief. While we haven't spoken for years, I did model a character after her, and people did not warm up to that character (for good reason). As an author, it's my job to rise above petty differences and irritating people. I have to take a closer look at why they are the way they are. Even antagonists have motivation. They are people, like everyone else, with experiences that shaped their lives. A good author will develop "sympathy for the devil." Which doesn't excuse his behavior, just helps people understand it a little better.

And here's a funny tidbit. Years ago, when I wrote the "reign of terror" at work into one of my novels, I took that person who we had all designated as evil and fashioned him after a famous person (artistic license) with questionable motives, someone who, at the time, I didn't know much about other than the profile fit. Today, that famous person is even more famous and those questionable motives are even MORE questionable, which makes me feel almost clairvoyant!

So yes, real life creeps into fiction, but it is usually distorted to fit the story rather than a recounting of actual events. A random odd phrase. An unexpected response. And yes, sometimes a way to release that inner turmoil.


  1. We've been watching "Lucifer"on Netflix lately, and talk about showing motivation for character behavior and garnering sympathy for someone who should be regarded as evil.

    1. I have yet to watch that! Will have to check it out.

    2. The Hubster thinks it's hilarious. But in a dark way.