Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Use what you know

For years, writing teachers said, "Write what you know." However, after writing six successful mystery novels, I discovered that you can USE what you know but don't be limited to the exact memories. Use your own life but alter it to work dramatically.

As an example, I am currently writing MYSTERY IN A PINK HOTEL, a mystery.

Kate, the protagonist, is upset because her boyfriend, a Tampa police detective named Marc, is having dinner with his ex-wife, an actress named Monet Swann.

Kate, a smart freelance writer, is based on my wife, Lori.
Monet is based on a flamboyant actress I was married to for three months, back in 1979. Marc is me if I were brave, smart and a policeman.

In the real life story, Monet (her real name was Rhonda) hit me with her car and put me in a hospital with a skull fracture that kept me out for two weeks.

However, what I USED was me being in the hospital for two weeks with a skull fracture. However, Marc gets HIS skull fracture when someone hits him on the head while framing him for a murder.

I use my relationship with Rhonda for the meeting between Monet and Marc, delving up all the problems with her alcoholism and drug use and applying it to Monet.

I also use my time in the hospital for Marc's time in the hospital. Using my fear that I had brain damage and the drugs I was on making me feel that way.

So, as you can see, I did not use my life exactly the way it happened in my fiction, I simply used feelings from life for Marc's fictional feelings.

Marc opened his eyes to a blurred vision in blue and dark brown, like an Impressionist painting, a nice change from the blackness he had experienced for the last few minutes. Or had it been hours? He really couldn't tell. There was a clock on the wall. It read eleven-forty-five pm. It had been less than an hour since he dropped Monet off at . . . Or, wait a minute. Bits and pieces of the abandoned house on Pass-A-Grille were coming back to him. He blinked, focused, and saw Kate, asleep, wrapped around a magazine in a cheap plastic hospital chair with her feet up on another. She was breathing steadily, softly.

He took a moment to drink in her natural beauty. She was worth coming back from the darkness. Her face was pretty but not glamorous. Her luxurious dark brown hair was beautiful, even though she'd had it cut the first of the year so now it only reached her shoulders. And what great shoulders. He smiled. Kate had great legs and an especially feminine body, all curves and softness, not like some bony, flat-chested model.

On the wide window ledge behind her chair, three flower arrangements elbowed one another out of the way, and cards were propped up in a neat row as if they were on sale. Beyond the window, a streetlamp and the tops of three palm trees obscured his view of a dark, cloudless sky. 

That was all true but it happened to me for other reasons with a different person. What''s really too weird for fiction is the fact that Marc was in the room that I had been in (207) and years after my hospital stay I visited an old man who meant a lot to me, just before he died.  

He was in the same room, same hospital.