Tuesday, July 26, 2011

What slips in when you don’t notice?

The other day, someone asked my mom if she’s a terrible cook.

The question caught her off guard, and it took her a moment to realize the person was referring to the first chapter in Making Waves. In it, my heroine’s mother is casually assembling the world’s most disgusting Jell-O salad. It’s intended for comic relief, and not autobiographical in any way.

For the record, my mother is an excellent cook.

But it did get me thinking. There are plenty of people who’ll read my books and look for nuggets of my real life in there. In most cases, they’ll be barking up the wrong tree.

Then again, I’m sometimes surprised at what slips in unexpectedly (um, no pun intended. Oh, what the hell – it’s totally intended).

Not long ago, someone I don’t know well read an early draft of Believe it or Not, the book now scheduled as my second release.

“So you have a hand fetish, huh?” he asked when he’d finished.

“Um, what?”

“A hand fetish,” he repeated. “It’s totally obvious you’re obsessed with men’s hands.”

And dammit all to hell if he wasn’t right.

I hadn’t realized how thoroughly I’d revealed myself until he pointed it out, but there it was for all the world to see. Yes, I will admit it – I am driven to the brink of lust-fueled insanity by a great pair of hands.

Another time, one of my critique partners picked up on an unexpected pattern. “Do you realize at least four books you’ve written have sexually-charged scenes taking place in or near a shower?”

I went back and looked, and sure enough, there they were – a makeout scene that starts with two characters inspecting mold on a shower curtain, a phone sex scene when the heroine answers a call in the middle of showering, an actual sex scene on a bathroom counter, and of course, the much-buzzed-about shower scene in Making Waves (the only one of those aforementioned books currently out there for public consumption).

The whole thing made me wonder. Do I have a thing for showers? Should I seek clinical help, or just install some sturdy handrails and a skid-proof shower floor?

I’m not sure about the answer to any of those questions, but I’m not too worried about it. While I do follow the old adage to “write what you know,” that’s certainly not all I write. That would either be really boring or grounds for arrest.

How much reality slips into your writing? Does the line tend to blur? Do you worry that people will think something’s autobiographical when it isn’t (or recognize it is when it is?) Please share!

I’ve got a sudden urge to find someone with really great hands and make a beeline for the shower. What? It’s research.


Kelsey (Dominique) Ridge said...

I've had some things slip in that made no sense -- Mathletes appear in just about all my contemporary stuff, and I wasn't a serious Mathlete -- and I've had something things crop of because I'm obsessed with them -- several characters heavy into and quoting Shakespeare. I think you sometimes can't where your mind lives.

Unknown said...

I don't dare to show my dad any of my writing anymore. He thinks it's all autobiographical (which it certainly isn't - in particular not the alley sex scene, but I'm considering trying that) and he even gets hurt when he thinks something is about him. In general my mood slips into stories, but rarely actual anecdotes, facts or quirks.

Sarah W said...

The MCs in two of my drawer novels are librarians . . . and the one in my current WIP. And most of my characters are wiseasses.

Other than that, the major elements are sort of anti-biography. My mother isn't a mass murderer, I'm not a martial arts expert (I think Tai Chi is a spectator sport), Dad's not poet laureate, and I've never been indicted.

But the minor ones . . . caffeine is prominent. My characters don't like haircuts and a lot of them bump into things because they're distracted.

Huh. Who knew?

Unknown said...

Ditto on the mood thing, my mood definately slips into my writing. Rather prominently, in fact. I can't seem to help it...

I also have a thing about scents, so my characters tend to notice how things smell a lot... good thing I like writing about werewolves, huh?

Summer Frey said...

In the only books I've written a sex scene, it takes place in the shower as well. Nothing wrong with that. Nothing wrong at all.

lora96 said...

Little traits from ex-boyfriends and even dh tend to show up. I try to search and destroy but somehow they manage to find their way into the text.

Danica Avet said...

LOL, um, well several things have slipped in that I didn't notice until much later. Like my falling-to-sleep-after-making-love thing, or my everyone-gets-married-and-has-babies thing, or my smelling thing. I have a big thing about how a man smells and it shows in every one of my books without me realizing it until...well, now.

I also have a car fetish, but that's something I already knew about. And yes, I had to tell my mother that she is not the model for any mothers who appear in my books.

Teri Anne Stanley said...

Early versions of several of my stories all had heroines with dead husbands, until my critique partner threatened to call The Big Guy and warn him. Now I'm much more creative at getting rid of them. Alien abduction is a good one.

Danielle Spears said...

Haha! I do have to say that I was fanning myself during that shower scene. Very, very sexy!!!

I am also a hands girl. Who wants dainty man hands anyway?

I have to say that I do creep up in my work, but it's not always with the female character. In my current WIP I have a lot more in common with the male protag.

Looking forward to that next book. Do we know when it's coming out?

Anonymous said...

Pretty much everything I write is a twisted version of something already diabolical that's happened to me. And now I can't remember what else I was going to say. Which sucks as it was really good! Damn this diet of no caffeine.

Darrell B. Nelson said...

The odd thing is do put some real things that have happened to me in my books. These events recreate the past close enough to make the person I'm writing about know its them, but no one else (hopefully). These are the parts of my books that my critiquers say are too unreal.

Judy,Judy,Judy. said...

I tend to put little anecdotes or stories from my real life in books in an altered form.
Can't wait for my copy of Making Waves to come from amazon. It shipped!

Jason said...

One of my biggest fears about writing a novel was to unintentionally write a character that too closely resembled someone I actually knew, then have them read it, interpret it negatively, and get pissed at me.

At some point I think I stopped caring about it too much, but I know there will be people who THINK a character is about them, when it's not. If despite me saying it's not (even if I realize it is - oops) they still think it's all about them, well, I can't control that.

There are tidbits in my story from people I know. I think doing that helps me create better characters, but I don't use past experiences. Instead, I'll use something very small, such as a pleasant observation about them, to develop a trait. I'd like to think the person would find it complementary - if they even figure it out.

I haven't found anything recurring yet though, except maybe a fondness for coffee, but I'll see after the second book...

BTW, I totally do this with writers when I read their books. What little tidbit in here might be autobiographical? I wouldn't have guess male hands for you, actually.

Anonymous said...

I hesitated to write fiction because I think readers automatically assume the author is writing about him/herself, and I wasn't sure I was comfortable with that.

In the end, I decided what the hell, I'll just write the coolest characters I can and hope everybody thinks they're really me. :-)

If we wrote characters who had no traits in common with anyone we knew, nobody would believe them anyway.

Betty Fokker said...

My reality is bizarre enough. Really. My family alone could be a SyFy series.