Bring a little real life to the imaginary.


Today’s post.  Taking our characters from those nearest and dearest to us.  Or those we just happen to pass by.
Most writers are observers.  My husband calls it nosey, but I’m sticking with observing.  😀  We people watch.  Listen in on conversations. Study how people interact with each other.  For most of us, we’ve done this our whole lives without even realizing it.  Others it’s taken some getting used to, but if you’re a writer, you’re going to do it at one point or another.
Take for instance, the day my husband and I were waiting in the hospital’s laboratory for my daughter to get some blood drawn.  I was taking care of my daughter—making sure she didn’t run away.  :D—when my husband pokes me in the side.  “Look over there,” he said and tilted his head in the direction of an elderly lady being pushed in a wheelchair by a radiology tech.
That, of course, wasn’t the part that was funny, it was the fact that the woman was talking at the top of her voice—I say talking because I’m pretty sure she didn’t mean to be so loud.  Anyway she’s asking the tech why they always do that to her and why couldn’t they just leave her be.
At first I felt sorry for her, here she was probably about 80 or 90 and she was getting poked and proded when all she wanted was to be left alone.
But the more she and the tech “talked,” I realized it wasn’t that at all.  It was the fact that the elderly woman (we’ll call her WW from now on) was upset about being pushed to the waiting room after her procedure.  She wanted to go talk with the woman who checked her in.
Now I have to give credit to the tech.  She never once got angry or nasty with WW, no matter how much WW dished out.  The tech quietly explained that WW had to wait there so the transport company would pick her up. And no she couldn’t see the lady who checked her in because she was with other patients. 
She told her she’d be right back and she was going to call the transport company and then locked the wheels on the chair.  She turned to the receptionist behind her and asked for her to watch WW.  The receptionist wasn’t happy about doing it, but nodded and the tech took off toward radiology again, presumably to get the transport company’s number from WW’s chart. 
The minute the tech disappeared, WW unlocked the wheels and propelled herself toward the check in lady–who was done the hall in one of the three rooms designated for it. The receptionist paid no attention to her.  I’m not sure if she didn’t care or just didn’t notice–honestly I don’t think she liked working there.  She wasn’t really all that nice.
 Since WW was still talking very loudly I heard her plainly tell the check-in woman that she hadn’t been seen for her test yet.  All she’d had done was moved from one side of the waiting room to the other, which of course wasn’t true.  I saw the tech wheel her in from radiology. 
I don’t know what happened after, because we got called in for bloodwork, but I was laughing so hard I had tears in my eyes.  My husband was the same.  It was hilarious.  It really was. 
And I knew I’d have to use that lady in a book.  She was too funny not too. 
On the other hand, the other day I was shopping and I had a full cart and two screaming kids.  I was embarrassed and frustrated so I went up to the first cash register and waited.  The minute I got up to him, he took a look at my cart, then me (with my hair standing up on end, I’m sure) and took out his closed sign.  “Sorry, Ma’am,” he told me.  “I’m closed.  You’ll have to find another register.”
I’ve worked in retail so I know this was a big “no-no,” so I said, “ You can’t do that.  You were just open.  You have to wait until you’re finished with the line.”
He smiled.  “I’m closed.  Go somewhere else.” And then he walked away. 
Needless to say I was pissed.  I did go to another register, but I made sure the poor woman running that one knew exactly what happened.  I was still polite about it, but what I really wanted to do was rant and rave.  Instead, I’ve decided to write him into a murder mystery I’ve been playing around with and use him as one of the victims. 
I’m not a violent person, but boy did I come up with a great opening scene for that book.  😀 
What real-life experiences have motivated you to tweak them and use them in a book?    

9 Responses to “Bring a little real life to the imaginary.”

  1. Larissa says:

    >Hahaha! The old lady is hilarious, but killing off rude jerk checkout boy is AWESOME! 😀

    Well, my MC in LURE is loosely based on my hubby, and the English teacher is my English teacher from high school. LOL.

  2. jasouders says:

    >Yes! That's awesome. I was wondering when someone would say they've used their significant other as either the hero or the villain. Jackson in MI is based on my hubby. 😀

  3. RavenClark says:

    >That's a great post, Jess. I love how you related the whole thing with the old lady at the hospital, then the jerk at the cash. Larissa is right, killing him off is crazy cool.

    Helena and Michella (Shadowsword) are both based off different aspects of myself. Both are, at the aame time, who I am, and who I wish I was. Kyas is a deliberate anti-me. In many ways, the opposite of what I am, and in many ways, what I wish I was (assuming I was male, of course).

    Awesome post, as always. I've missed reading your work.


  4. Dorothy Dreyer says:

    >LOL, I love it! Can't wait to see both of those characters immortalized in your books.

    I've done this too. One of them is a fellow girl student at my daughter's school who does evil things like steal my daughter's school books and gym bag and write fake cruel emails to her friends pretending to be my daughter to get her in trouble. Yeah, she gets shot in my book. 😉

  5. EJ Fechenda says:

    >Great post and so true about people watching. I'm a shameless eavesdropper and always have been. One of the characters in my current WIP is loosely based on my estranged father-in-law; not his personality, but his history.

  6. jasouders says:

    >Raven: That's AWESOME! Most of my female MC are either what I was, am, or what I wish I was. I'm going to start one that is so completely NOT me or anything I WANT to be, but I'm going for as flawed as possible.

    Dorothy: ROFL! That's so delightfully WICKED! I'm sorry your daughter has to go through that, though.

    EJ: What was his history? History's are even more fun to write about sometimes than personalities, but I LOVE history. More along the lines of WHY they did something than the actual history, but…

  7. Liz Czukas says:

    >I love to drop little bits from my life all over my fiction. One of my characters is pretty close to what I was like in high school with a few pretty significant differences, but all of them have some aspect of me. That's what makes them real.

    In the project I just finished a draft on, I included a couple true-to-life details. The location of a friend's wedding, a coworker's creative use of hotpads in the kitchen, and my own distaste for electric blue foods.

    Can't wait to see your nasty checker meet a bad end!

    – Liz

  8. salarsenッ says:

    >JA, that's funny. I do that: observe peeps and adhere my observations to the sticky note in my head.

    There was this time when I was in high school that a football player dragged me into the boys locker room and tossed me into the showers. Yeah, I tweaked it but used it. Steam scene.

    (My tossing was a joke and supported by a few teachers. Grr…)

  9. Jennifer Walkup says:

    >Great post and I agree that real life is sometimes great, esp. for those little details. OMG on your grocery store experience. That is so rude of the cashier. I would have been so angry, esp. since you had kids with you, who make the trip that much harder!