I never thought I used actual people in my short stories and novels, but a few readers claim to “recognize” someone. That always surprises me.
Then I decided to use one woman’s particular circumstances and ended up using some of her personality in the character in my novel, A Broken Life, and even her dog. She loved it. Thank goodness.
A friend gave me a tee shirt that said, “I’m A Writer. Everything you Say or Do may end up in my Novel.” Next thing I knew, people were staring at my chest, then smiling.
Anyway, finally, a stranger said, “So, I’m going to be in your next novel?”
“Yes,” I replied. “Thank you very much.”
She laughed. As she walked away, I asked, “What’s your name?”
She laughed harder. Thank goodness.
This led me to a hunt for other tee shirts for writers. They’re everywhere! Amazon. Café Press. Zazzle.
“I’m a writer. What’s your superpower?
“Save a writer. Buy a book.”
“I’m a writer. (No, really.)”
“Writer’s block. When your imaginary friends won’t talk to you.”
Anyway, putting real people you know in a novel can be explosive. Pat Conway said: “When The Great Santini came out, the book roared through my family like a nuclear device. My father hated it; my grandparents hated it; my aunts and uncles hated it; my cousins who adore my father thought I was a psychopath for writing it; and rumor has it that my mother gave it to the judge in her divorce case and said, “It’s all there. Everything you need to know.”
But what Anne Lamont said should probably be on a tee shirt you wear right after a new novel or short story comes out using real people as templates: “You own everything that happened to you. Tell your stories. If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should have behaved better.”
What I really want is the mug that says, “Go away. I’m reading.”