An acquaintance mentioned reading the e-version of my book, Donovan’s Paradigm, and asked if my parents really had a beach house in Newport Beach, did I have a dog named Swamp Thing, and is my protagonist, Erik Behler, patterned after my husband. The answers, in order, are: Only in my dreams, yes, not a chance.
Over the years people have asked me to clarify which parts of my novel are “true.” Geez, tough answer because I really don’t know. I often stick to the axiom of “write what you know,” but my knowledge of medicine and surgery would fill a thimble. That took arduous hours of research and talking to the horse’s mouth, as it were.
What I do “know” is human nature, relationships, heartache, sorrow, regret, slap-happy joy, and perseverance, so I felt adequately qualified to hit those notes in perfect pitch.
A friend told me how flattered she was to be the character of Erik’s best friend, and I nearly swallowed my tongue because it couldn’t have been further from the truth. They were nothing alike, and I have no clue where she got that idea.
It made me wonder if friends and family see a few things they know are a part of the author’s life (like my dearly departed Swamp Thing) and expect that everything else is biographical in nature as well, and look for any similarities, no matter how small and inconsequential.
Occupational hazard, I imagine. I mean, family and friends don’t really have a clue where the author ends and the story begins, so they take ownership of situations and characters. Since they aren’t writers, they don’t necessarily appreciate or understand the high value we writers place on our imaginations. On the other hand, I have to allow that I may subconsciously include things that have me written all over it…like the fact that I can ramble when I’m upset and that I have a thing for men’s hands.
So whenever I’m confronted with the, “That character is so me!” I just pull out my stock answer – “Eh, fiction still is stranger than truth.” And when I get narked on personal traits, I blush and admit I’ve been busted.
How ’bout you? Do you find people trying to insinuate themselves into your stories? How do you deal with it?