Sunday, 21 February 2016

Is it Me?

They say you should write about what you know but I am wondering how much of this would actually get you into trouble? When I finished my Nano project in November 2015 it was a huge feeling of relief. Up to that point I wouldn't talk about the plot at all with my husband and eventually when I told him what it was all about he looked at me, smirked and said, 'So its plain to see who each of the characters is based on!' Ooops! Was I that transparent?

That got me wondering whether I was going to get myself into a whole lot of trouble if the book was ever published. I knew I was basing the main characters on real people and some of my own experiences but I stupidly thought no one would make the connection! My darling husband and his enormous and infuriating brain figured it out in seconds. Fortunately I don't give a monkey's ass about the opinions of the people that some of the characters might closely resemble (Admit to nothing I hear you shout). I am no longer in contact with them and they'd never admit to reading any book I wrote! However, I am now left with another dilemma. I have an idea for a second book and its very clearly based on myself and my friends. Although, my friends do know about it and I threaten them now and again to base a 30 stone transvestite on one of them or a raging sex mad alcoholic! Seriously though, I am wondering just how careful are other writers around basing their characters on real people. I know that if I ever write this book I am going to have to be very careful when writing about people I know will read the book. I don't want to offend or hurt and I'm hoping they will see what I am writing as a compliment to the wonderful people that they are.

I think its quite difficult not to use traits from other people for your characters, particularly when they are things that make some sort of an impact on you whether from an emotional point of view or because you think they are the most wonderful people in the world and that needs to be shared. I know that some of the traits of my very best friends are what makes me love them so much. But, not being the most experienced of writers I'd love to hear the opinions of other writers. Do you risk an onslaught from the 'real' people in your life if you base a character, no matter how loosely on them? Are they easily offended? Do you live in fear of the neighbours slashing your car tyres or excluding you, heaven forbid, from all the neighbourhood watch meetings all because you wrote about a cul-de-sac where there was a bit of wife swapping or mad affairs going on in the garden shed at the bottom of the garden (yeah this happened!). Are you afraid Auntie Mabel will cross you off her Christmas card because you wrote about an elderly female character with a liking for smoking Cuban cigars or that Uncle Max will write you out of his will? Or worse, leave you his damn cat as a punishment when he knows you are allergic to cats all because you mentioned his fascination with ladies knickers! Are you at risk of totally alienating yourself from friends and family who live in fear you are going to write then into a book and then kill them off even if you have no intention of doing so!?

At a recent book launch for Colin Bateman's book Papercuts, which is set in my home town, he joked that often people think characters are based on them when in fact they aren't. I thought this was really interesting. Is it a case of inflated egos that cause people to assume they are the basis for a character or is it perhaps really clever writing that lets a reader see a part of themselves in a character who isn't actually based on anyone in particular? Some books probably fly pretty close to the wire and writers do have to be very careful from a legal point of view. Or is it a case of write and be damned with the consequences! I suppose all this will come down to experience / stupidity / naivety or all three!

I think that there is no doubt that it is impossible to write characters that may have some resemblance to real people and whether writers do that unconsciously or not I'm not altogether sure. I'm pretty sure that a lot of experiences written about are based on someone's real life experience. In my book some of what happens or the things said to the female lead character are things once said to me. Did I write this as a sort of therapy? Possibly. Did I write it as revenge? Absolutely not. I wrote it because it made a good story. I know that when I was writing my Nano book I googled photographs of what I thought the characters looked like and based a lot of stuff around that. Unfortunately they happen to look like people I know! Oh dear. I'll just sit here and wait for the court summons then if the book ever gets into print! Watch this space!

Friday, 12 February 2016

Library Lout!

Ok so what genius decided that firstly there should only be 24 hours in a day? And secondly, why do we need to sleep? I mean its a massive waste of valuable time! Those who know me well know that I don't sleep particularly well anyway but wouldn't it be wonderful if places like the library opened in the middle of the night? I bet they would be full to bursting with writers looking for some head space and readers just wanting to escape from their own dull and insomniac existence and disappear into a thousand books!

Why am I complaining again and this time about time? Well, my best laid plans to get myself organised and do more writing have fallen a bit flat! At the moment all my free time is taken up with family stuff or book blogging / touring work. Not that I mind any of that for one moment but it does eat into a fair amount of my time. Oh and then there is the dreaded day job which actually just feels like a huge weight around my neck right now. Yeah its useful for paying some of the bills but I can slowly feel my brain getting ready to pack its bags and leave home! And who could blame it!

I'm not sure about where others find the best place to write is but mine currently is the library. I always thought that once I got my own desk at home I would start writing like a mad writing thing (otherwise known as a writer / author). However, when writing at home there are a few things that distract me - 

1. Facebook and all other forms of social media! Yeah of course I can access those things at the library but I'm much more disciplined there than I am at home.

2. Interesting blog posts - Oi stop reading this. You should be writing instead!

3. The dog - now I know you are reading this with one of those baffled looks on your face. I adore my dog. He is part of my family but by god he is a needy hound! The minute I sit down with the laptop there he is wanting to sit on my knee. Then he starts pressing the keys on the laptop, deleting entire chapters! Or, he sits at the window and barks at every man, woman and child that walks past the house. Doggy world war ensues if another dog walks past!

4. Other people - Apparently when my car is parked in my driveway it acts as a homing beacon for others to come visit me and sit for hours on end! I don't write but I do eat a lot of buns instead!

5. My daughter - I love this kid with every heartbeat. She, like a lot of teens spends large amounts of time in her room. That is until I open my laptop and then she suddenly has 100000000 things she wants to tell me! At once!

6. Housework - I am one of those weirdos who cannot write in a messy room. So, before sitting down to write I tidy up a bit. Then, I decide to do a little dusting. Then I end up doing laundry and before I know it I am down on my hands and knees scrubbing skirting boards and suddenly there's no time to write.

So, for now the only writing I can do is at my local library. Unfortunately this means only once a week. Is it enough time? Probably not. But, for me its still an opportunity that I love to exploit and something I am beginning to really look forward to! I would have disappeared for hours in the old library when I was a child. The place always held such a fascination for me and I loved the old building. Its since had a massive overhaul and a giant extension put onto it and although I hate the look of the extension I still love the place! Does that make sense?  I love the fact that I am surrounded by books. All those millions of words spilled out onto pages. Stories that have made people happy, sad, inspired or excited! Oh and the smell of the books! Good grief! Its almost better than sex......................I said almost! (*waves at husband who might be reading this). 


I love the fact the library sits in the middle of the park with ducks waddling about outside! I love the fact that everyone is always nice and quiet - except the bloke who sits opposite me sometimes and whisper sings! You know the sort! He wears headphones and sings in a massively loud whisper type way while closing his eyes and swaying like a demented cobra! Then he suddenly opens his eyes, keeps whisper singing and types away at a thousand miles an hour. Maybe the music inspires him! I know I do that when I'm at home and my family throw cushions at me to get me to stop singing so I better not do it at the library. Someone might throw a book at me! Oh a book................lovely books.............*drools

I also love the fact that I am surrounded by others furiously typing away on their laptops too. I like to pretend that they are other writers, penning the next great masterpiece and that I sat in the same room as them when they were writing the next big literary hit. I suppose half of them are probably students writing some very interesting thesis on the mating habits of the banana fly (There is actually a book about this. Its a book about the facts of life!). Or, perhaps some of them are having online affairs with strangers boasting their very own red room of pain! Who knows! I find it all fascinating. There was even someone last week who brought their packed lunch with them!  Oh but hold on.............are they my new distraction? Eeeek! But, I do love to people watch and some of them do give me some fab ideas for characters!

One of these days I will find the time to book myself away on a writing retreat and just type away all day! I am massively envious of those who avail of such a treat. Unfortunately time, family and financial constraints means that won't happen. In the meantime I will continue with my little library excursions for a few hours on a Saturday. I love it! I feel happy and inspired there. I only wish the library was open all the time! Save our lovely libraries. For some people its the only retreat from a hectic life.  So, this Valentine's weekend I am declaring my love for libraries!