Nobody ever told you becoming a fiction writer would involve life-threatening situations, right? And you didn’t choose a writing career so you’d end up in jail or worse, in a casket. If like me, you pick your inspiration from your immediate surrounding, there are a few pitfalls you just have to watch out for. I’ve listed about five here applying well-known proverbs but there might be more.
“A Good Name is Sooner Lost than Won”: You probably heard it said, “Give a dog a bad name and hang him and the name remains.” The saying also applies to fiction writing. Folks don’t take kindly to being made the butt of the joke especially, one where the clown gets paid. Use names that cannot be traced to persons, living or dead. Even if your story is not inspired by an event in your immediate vicinity, make it a personal commitment to avoid picking names associated with local, real people around you, for your story. Most of the time, folks won’t mind becoming a part of your story yet the few exceptions would spell the difference between a fruitful career and an embarrassingly short, unhappy one.
“What is Sauce for the Goose is Sauce for the Gander”: Have you ever considered writing a story not sex-driven? Your story people do n0t have to be male or female. They can be genderless, if it furthers your cause, or even bisexual (we used to call that hermaphrodite back in my high school days.) Here’s a story in your hands that’s a best seller in its own rights but you know you’re going to step on toes if you lay it out the way it is. You’re especially worried about how to keep your story faithful to the character without blowing the real life inspiration out of the water. I think you ought to give this a try; trade genders.
“We Can Live Without Our Friends but Not Without Our Neighbors”: Setting is important to story and for a yarn crawling with sensitive topics, setting is probably everything if the story must hold true. This gig is not called fiction for nothing, you know? Relocating the situation of your story and fine-tuning it to blend in with the adapted setting adds a different twist to the entire deal. If it’s trading places your narrative needs to retain its appeal among local audience, change your story setting.
“The Habit Does Not Make the Monk”: Story is king. Forget about all the misconceptions going the rounds about making your work fit into a standard genre. If attempting to mold your tale into a particular fiction category is going to spell trouble for you, ditch the genre and get the story done anyway you can. Going for the obvious might wake the dead, drawing painful and better-forgotten memories to the fore. Believe me, you don’t need the drama. The habit don’t make the monk and the genre don’t make the story. Your readers are bound to see it for what it is, anyway.
“Speak Well of Your Friends and of Your Enemy Nothing”: What gives profiling its appeal is how it injects life into your fictional characters and gives them the feel of real people. And whether the process is accidental or otherwise (the peeved individual would most likely tell you to ‘shove your excuses where the sun never shines’) most of the conceits you feed into your character are things you notice in the people around you. You can do yourself a favor and add a creative twist when drawing up traits of folks who populate your story. Business can get nasty in a hurry if your mother-in-law spots how the toothless old hag living up a tree in your fantasy series shares her peculiarities.
This is a reheated version of an article I wrote way back 2012 called “Entirely Coincidental.” Just in case, you noticed.
Keep your pens bleeding!