Have you ever been chatting with a friend and while they’re telling you a story you were completely distracted by how you were going to steal that story and incorporate it into a book?
Then you’re not a writer.
Writers are thieves. I mean, we won’t mug you for your cute purse (probably). But like they say on Law & Order, anything you say can and will be used as fodder for fiction. I actually haven’t watched Law & Order in a couple years, but I’m assuming it’s still using that “ripped from the headlines” theme.
Most of the time, my own theft is fairly innocuous. Ask my cousins who unknowingly lent me their first names (Thanks, Lindsey! Thanks, Katrina!). And my mother, who inspired a throwaway line about tripping over an orange traffic cone (keep providing me with material, Mom, but please watch your step). Don’t even get me started on my single friends’ bad dates.
In A Good Kind of Trouble, I used a couple of real-life incidences as inspiration for workplace scenes. One scene was a newsroom scuffle between Lindsey’s editor Sam and the newspaper’s in-house counsel, Lara Petrie. My critique partner had concerns about that scene.
“I just don’t know if it’s believable that an argument would escalate to a physical altercation,” she said.
This was a bit awkward. I’d worked in newsrooms and seen things that would make an HR professional run screaming, so it hadn’t occurred to me that readers would question something I’d seen happen. More than once. I toned it down a little for the fictionalized version.
The other “ripped from real life” scene was inspired by stories I heard from two different lawyers about life in huge law firms. Gordo’s method of sneaking out of work to have an occasional social life combined two different stealth escape plans. The details were changed, of course, to protect the not-so-innocent.
This is important information to keep in mind if you know any writers. You may need to start each conversation with a disclaimer, like, “This is strictly confidential,” or “Don’t you dare put this in your book,” or “Put down the pen, Ellie. I mean it.” Something like that. Your writer friend will get the hint.
And will wait until you leave to write it down.
(Originally published at Jane Reads, who also did a lovely review! Thank you, Jane!)