Saturday, October 5, 2013

Not Only Do I Not Base My Characters On Real People

...the one time I tried it, I couldn't write! I have a story to tell, it's based on a real incident, it's got drama, suspense, the supernatural, lost works of art, angels, a Native American connection, ghosts, revenge, even a tinge of political intrigue...I mean, people, we are talking BEST SELLER. I was there, I saw it all, I lived it.

And I can't write it. Physically can't write it.

So I approached it in stages, wrote notes, tried to recast the real people into the characters, combined a few, changed their professions, added a love interest for the heroine (which somehow real life neglected to provide during this whole episode although there were good looking paramedics)...didn't really have to enhance the actual events, however. If anything I toned them down did not work.

OK, I set it aside, figured maybe I needed more distance from the events. Wrote other books. Did more plotting on how to fictionalize the plot. Considered this as part of a potential series....took another stab at writing the story. It's now been five years since the events. Got half of the first chapter. Not working. The Muse sat down, crossed her arms and said, "You will not be writing this story. Ever."

First of all, I think my creativity got stifled by the boundaries of the real people and events. Even giving myself permission to embellish, to add, subtract, make them more recognizable romantic suspense characters, my brain still said to me, "But that didn't happen in such and such order. This person didn't say those words, her sister did. The bad guy wasn't this, he was that."

The other reason I'll never write this story? I have to preface my second reason by reminding you we have a touch of The Gift in our family. Irish ancestors going wayyyy back in time.  So as I was discussing my attempt to novelize this story with a family member a few months ago, she got really spooked by the true events I was mentioning, the cats left the room in a mad, spitting rush, and I finally said, "I'm never going to even TRY to write the story. I think it just isn't supposed to be written." At that point she said a black cloud she'd been "seeing" in the room with us disappeared, the actual sun came out and the cats meandered back in.

OK, just typing those words gave me goosebumps all over again. So, some stories using real people as the characters aren't meant to be written. I must add, as I always do when discussing this incident even tangentially, the real life events ended on an undeniable note of Grace, which touched every one of us who was involved.

(Sorry, when I sit down to write these Word Whores blog posts, they really are stream of consciousness.)

That would be my one attempt to write a novel based on real people. Normally my characters come to me as I'm thinking about writing a novel, much as K.A. Krantz said earlier in the week. To quote her, "'s all cobbled together from the roiling chunky stew of my imagination."

And if I happen to be writing a novel set in Ancient Egypt, the people are probably based on a major amount of research as well!


  1. I left out half of the spookiest time I see you, remind me and I'll share!

  2. Yes! 101 reasons why I will never, ever write that "family tale" the family always suggests I write.

    (Awesome book cover, btw!)