Almost every work of fiction begins with a disclaimer like this:
…all persons appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to real people, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
If you’re a writer, you know that legal statement is hogwash. We’re told repeatedly to write what we KNOW, so sadly that includes everyone we KNOW. Everything we write is based on fact—people we know or have seen in the airport, places we’ve been to or researched, etc; these all lead our writing.
The fun part for a writer though, is pulling from truth and fact, and then twisting it into a new dimension—another reality.
So I’m going to buck the system and be up front and admit that some of my characters from Eyes of Light and my next novel, Secret Keepers, ARE based on real people. But, if you think you might be one of these people, rest assured that I’m not invading your privacy and writing an undocumented biography on your life. That would be wrong; besides, I’m not into writing soap operas!
As I write…the real-You morphs on the page into a new-You as that-you is put through trials and hardships by my typing fingers. Hopefully, no one is offended if one of my characters has your name or eye twitch and then does something you disapprove of…like picking his nose.
“Hey,” you might say to me at the next family gathering, “Why did you write that I picked my nose in your book? That was really rude!” [Note: Picking noses doesn’t actually happen in any of the 3 Eyes of Light books; but now that I came up with that example, I’m wondering which of my family or friends can do it in a future book. Hmmm? Who’s been mean to me?]
I will frown and give you the normal author copout. “What? You thought that character was You? Oh, please! I’m going to laugh my head off. You’re crazy!”
Then I’ll give you a compassionate pat on the back and say, “Take a deep breath and repeat after me: ‘It’s make believe. That nose-picking character isn’t me…’” or, if that doesn’t work, I’ll have you tap your glittery red shoes together and say 3 times, “There’s no place like home.” (It worked for Dorothy)
Maybe this is why silly disclaimers are put in the beginning of books…to save us authors from having to try to explain to our nose-picking friends that our nose-picking characters are NOT them.
We authors start from reality, but then we make our own Dr. Seuss worlds. We stretch and shorten characters and give them funny hairdos and make the trees all twisty and pink. And people get mad at us because they see a resemblance to John-Who in our book—and get nervous that we’re making fun of them in a clever way.
But don’t get in a dither. Remember the disclaimer? I might start out with a real person in mind—and set You on a diving board. But once my character-You dives into the water (my story), he emerges as a brand new creature—New-You—and swims on his own. Transformation…reality to fiction.
To all my real family and friends out there (and maybe the occasional stranger I pass in the store that’s picking your nose), thanks for getting on the diving board for my writing! I hope the Who-do I place on your head in my story doesn’t offend you or clash with your clothes. I’m not making fun of you—of Once-you, at least. New-You is a completely different You-Who than You…even if they have your name, or your idiosyncrasies (like picking their nose).
Any resemblance to people, real or dead, is strictly coincidental and truly crazy! I might have to have you committed for thinking otherwise. So sit back, read my book, and think of Who-ville…at least a Who-ville that has evil drug capos who are out for revenge, and double agents who make your heart race, and half-crazed beautiful girls making stupid decisions that make you want to pull your hair out and scream. And let your small heart grow 3 times larger (like the Grinch’s on the day he read Eyes of Light).
P.S. And if you want your heart to grow 4 times larger, then write a review of my book on Amazon after you read it. You’ll make my day (unless it’s a 1-2 star, then I’m killing you off in my next book).
Bent Wrist Writing Lessons: