The funny thing about being a fiction writer is how easy it is for your everyday life to seep into your work.
There have been multiple times when I started working on a story with a specific personality in mind for a character. Once the plot starts flowing, though, the character starts shifting into someone new.
Sometimes they’ll say or do something that is eerily similar to stuff that I’ve seen in real life. These scenes don’t always make it to the final cut, but in some cases they turn out to be exactly what the storyline needed to flourish.
Friends, family members, acquaintances, and even perfect strangers can be endless sources of inspiration. Listening to the way they talk has helped me to figure out how to word the dialogue in my stories. Seeing how people of different ages and from various backgrounds react to the same bad (or good!) news has also been enlightening. You can learn so much about how the average person thinks by listening quietly to what they say and how they say it.
No, I don’t usually borrow full anecdotes from the people I care about when I’m writing. Normally it’s something small like a phrase or a funny, unexpected reaction. Even then, these moments are trimmed down or exaggerated to fit my purposes. Most of them are nearly unrecognizable by the time they’ve gone through the writing and editing processes unless you are unusually observant and happened to be in the room at the exact moment when inspiration hit.
It’s difficult to turn off this part of my mind. This is something I do without thinking about it, just like my mom instantly switches on her medical mode and starts asking specific questions about our health if anyone gets sick.
Occasionally I’ve stopped working on a story because I couldn’t quite make the transition from an interesting observation to the realm of fiction. There is a fuzzy line between being inspired by people and lifting too much from their lives for your own purposes. I don’t always know exactly where that line begins, but I’m careful not to cross it.
I still reserve the right to write about you, though. The people in my life are incredible, and I want to share a small piece of them with the rest of the world.