A friend and I have been having a discussion about writing. She, like me, has written several novels and we were pondering on using things which have really happened to us as material for writing; we were wondering about using other real people in our stories and how you could disguise them. She was telling me about a very funny incident which she had observed; it was funny because one of the people was quite large and got stuck in a small space and had to be extracted in an undignified manner. She was struggling to know how to write about it because the character would be so unmistakably identified as the real person.
It’s tricky, isn’t it, to use your own experiences ‘write what you know’, but you don’t want to identify other people for various reasons; you could disguise them by changing their age, sex appearance, but if as in my friend’s example, the whole plot is based on a particular characteristics, then it’s a conundrum. I tend to have a trigger for what I write about; for example in Flipside which I am working on now, I once visited a garage and the man in the office looked so sad and melancholy and yet his friend was chipper and bouncy. I just wondered about the relationship between them, and why one was so sad, and the other so cheerful. The sad man became David who had been through traumatic events in the war in Bosnia, the other became Kiran who actually as well as being bouncy was a bit of a bounder!
In ‘Loving Judah’, one of the characters fell from grace in a spectacular fashion, as did a real person I had read about in the media; the real person was a famous sportsman, my character became a high-flying police officer. My story wasn’t about the fall from grace, it was about the effects of the fall on him, his family and friends… and that all came out of my imagination.
My writing is all triggered by “…what if?” “why?” “what happened next?” “supposing…” I don’t consciously base my stories on any real events except very loosely and supplemented by dollops of fantasy… or so I thought. A dear cousin who knows me very well, recently read “Night Vision” and said there were a lot of familiar things in it… oh really??