Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Do You Put Real Life People in Your Stories?

By James L. Rubart

Have you seen the t-shirt that says, "Careful, Or I'll Put You In My Novel"?

Darci (my wife) bought me one a few years back and people always laugh when I wear it. But you and I know it's true, don't we? You think they'd still be laughing if they knew it really happens?

I've done it. Often. You? 

Usually it's a combination of people I know, but when I wrote my third novel, The Chair, I modeled one of the main supporting characters after my friend Mark.

He's larger than life, a real world Mr. Incredible (6' 4" 265 pounds of muscle and a stellar personality) and I didn't need to change a thing to make him a fascinating character.

But sometimes we don't bring in the good ones. Sometimes we bring in the people that should have been more careful.

Last year, I ran into a woman who rubbed me wrong. That was okay. But she rubbed my wife wrong. Really wrong. We're talking Brillo pad wrong. 

Saying she was unkind is putting it gently. Since this is family column, let's just say she wasn't careful. 

So last summer I considered putting her in my work in progress. (The Long Journey to Jake Palmer - out August 9th) Then I more than considered. I did it.

Here's the Interesting Part

A close friend read the manuscript when I finished the first draft last November. This friend knows the lady in question. When he finished, I was a bit nervous. I thought it would be obvious to everyone. But he asked me if the character was someone else we both knew. 


Nope. I didn't disguise this woman a great deal, but enough that it wouldn't be a snap for most people to tell who she was.

No, I'm not saying we should take revenge on people that tweak us the wrong way. But I am saying we can create scintillating characters for by continuing to twist our heads from side to side and look at all the intriguing people all around us.

And yes, I'll be careful around you from now on.

How 'bout you? Have you ever put someone close to you in a novel? Have you worried about them figuring it out?

James L. Rubart is 28 years old, but lives trapped inside an older man's body. He thinks he's still young enough to water ski like a madman and dirt bike with his two grown sons, and loves to send readers on journeys they'll remember months after they finish one of his stories. He's the best-selling, Christy, INSPY, and RT Book Reviews award winning author of seven novels as well as a professional speaker. During the day he runs his marketing company which helps businesses, authors, and publishers make more coin of the realm. He lives with his amazing wife on a small lake in eastern Washington. More at: www.jameslrubart.com


Southern-fried Fiction said...

I've put friends in, one even by name. Like your friend, Frank is bigger than life and was exactly who I needed for the hero's sidekick. I have the T-shirt too. Love it. But my favorite T says Metaphors be with you. 😀

Jim Rubart said...

Just saw the Metaphors Be With You one the other day! (Yes, I need to get out more.)

chappydebbie said...

In my devotional, I've mentioned family members, although, not by name. I have been put in someone else's book....it's very flattering.

Robin Patchen said...

I once had an old friend of my parents call me on the phone. I hadn't spoken to this woman in twenty years, but she wanted to know if I had modeled the villain in my novel after...you won't believe this...my father! I was speechless. "Uh, no. I consider my dad to be a pretty good guy. I can't imagine him seducing teenagers and then killing them off. But gee, thanks for calling."

I think I'll put HER in a book.

Thanks for the great post!

Jim Rubart said...

Oh my gosh, Robin! That is too funny ... or uh, not funny. Wow. Great story for writing conferences. :)