Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Write People You Know

Every Wednesday, YA Highway asks their readership a simple question to answer on your blog. Once you answer, you link your blog in the comments for other readers to hop on board. This is Road Trip Wednesday. 

Today's question: Who from real life have you written into a book?

My creative writing professor in college gave us this sound advice on incorporating real life people into works of fiction:

"Change their penis or breast size."

Um, no Annie, that's not how it works.

Like a lot of the other road trippers, I'm a trait stealer. In Falling to Normal, Cheyenne's extremely Catholic uncle is modeled in part by my dad and several conversations I've had with my former nun aunt. At least the staunch Catholic part is. And all of Cheyenne's extended family is modeled in part after my father's 18 brothers and sisters*.
With this many aunts & uncles, you got an inevitable trait farm.
An earlier version of Falling to Normal even ripped kids I went to high school with. I drilled that down to two people, one of those being me. (I know what you're thinking: "god, she thinks highly of herself." No, my fictionalized self is the worst case scenario: naive as hell, a major follower, and no spine. I wouldn't be friends with fictionalized me.) The other is one of the besties and again I've made her a worst-case scenario of herself**.

The White One has even been fictionalized in that yet to be titled co-authored project***.

Out of these, I find that fictionalizing my family the easiest to do. I think this is because there's a distance there that you don't always have with the besties.

How do you handle fictionalizing real people?

* That's not an exaggerated number.
** Since she's read a gazillion drafts, I don't think she has a problem with this.
*** Speaking of, you can read an excerpt from chapter 2 here.
_________ hit of the day: Hail! Hail! by Ike Reilly


  1. Wow 18 aunts and uncles. Holidays must be NUTS for you. lol

  2. I thought my husband's 9 brothers and sisters were a record. It's plenty.

    I like your take on this-- exploring the worst parts of the people we know well. Makes for great characters, I bet.

  3. So your dad is one of 19 kids? Is he a Duggar perchance? :)

    I'm a trait borrower too. Seems the best way to do it.

  4. I like the phrase "modeled on". I think that fits for what I often do.

  5. Wow! 19 kids in one family? You're lucky to have such a group to pick and choose traits from. I can totally relate to staunch Catholics in a large family. My mom has six brothers and sisters and dozens of aunts and uncles, and there are two priests mixed into that bunch.

  6. That's interesting because I felt like there were a lot of the characters based off of your life from in Falling to Normal. Very cool post

  7. Wow, that's a huge family! Mine's not large, but they all have big personalities, so I guess it works out in the end. :)

    I love how you take a real life person and make your characters a worse-case scenario of them. Great idea.

  8. 19! Yikes! I have trouble with three!

    I try not to model my characters on anyone I know, though sometimes it just sort of happens that a particular trait or look or habit will sort of fall into the narrative.

  9. 18 aunts and uncles! And all the cousins you must have! That really IS a trait farm!

  10. Wow. I agree - how do you handle the holidays? I thought I had stress. But I bet that's fun too!

    My mc from my first story has some of absolute worst traits - or at least what I considered my worst traits - so this was a most fascinating read. Thanks!

  11. I like your take on the fictionalized self as MC--it must be really eye-opening. You are a brave soul, indeed!

  12. Cool post! I borrow from various cousins, friends, folks on the Metro...put the tid bits into the blender in the ole brain and see what pours out. I saw your last name on your profile. Lots of your relatives in South Louisiana. So if your trait pool ever needs a shot of Tabassco sauce...

  13. Yeah, my family is a huge inspiration--especially since they're so crazy! :)

  14. ROOOLLLLIIIINNNN ont the dang floor - change their penis or breast size - aaahhhh. They sure won't sue you then and admit it? love it

  15. HUGE FAMILY! You must have received so many presents as a kid! ;)

  16. For the record, I have no problems with the fictionalized me in F2N. In fact, it amuses me. =-)


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