My seventeen year old daughter has an intellectual disability. In some ways, she is a five-year-old. And a two-year-old. And a twelve-year-old. And, really, she is also a teenager with hormones and growth spurts and all the fun stuff that comes with adolescence.
For a while, I used to describe this aspect of her special needs by saying “when she does this, it’s like a four-year-old.” However, that description fails miserably. It can’t be broken down like that. She is simultaneously a child and a teen, in a way that defies description.
I have a tee shirt that says “Careful, or I’ll put you in my novel.” The joke is that writers take people they dislike, base a character on them, then kill them off. I don’t do them. I prefer Chaucer’s advice “Ridicule is man’s most potent weapon.” I write in aspects of people whom I dislike, then I turn them into objects of ridicule.
I take bits and pieces from people I know, people I hear about, and people who exist only in my own mind and recreate completely new characters. An old friend asked me to kill her off in a spectacular fashion, so I wrote The Shatterer for her.
That same friend is going to pose for me tomorrow as the captain of a space station. We’ll take some fun pics I can use as inspiration for a story I’m working on. The Shatterer and the captain couldn’t be more different; they each embody aspects of my friend and of a dozen other influences. They are unique.
My ROW80 goals this week are… confusing. A large part of work was transcribing, which might count as “actual writing” but might not. A lot of time is going into the big picture of karmic everything, doing interviews and writing blog posts for the Pikes Peak Writers. Consider my kids went back to school last week and my sleep schedule has to be shaped around my duties as family chauffeur, it’s amazing how much I accomplished! Just… never enough real writing. It’s never enough.
The Squirrels Are Back in the Attic is the story I transcribed today. It’s off to the editor. Sheepless in Seattle just came back from the proofreader, and I’ll upload it soon for preorder. The full moon is September 16!
Question for the writerly-folk:
Would you rather kill off a character with aspects of someone you dislike? Or reform them? Or, like me, ridicule them?
Have you ever based a character almost completely on a single real person?
Yes, I have….more times than I care to explain. Some of my characters I make up, others are definitely based on people I know. Some I base only a little bit on someone I know – one habit or aspect of personality. Others I use a whole lot of that person and only make up a few parts.
Sometimes I have people thing “OMG that’s me!” when I really wasn’t thinking about them at all when I wrote it!
If it helps I consider brainstorming, editing, or transcribing/clarification on a novel or story to be work on that story… but I usually assign a lesser value than actually writing words to it. The reason is I don’t want to give myself an excuse to slack off on the effort of writing, and while the other aspects are time-consuming, they aren’t as straining (just tedious).
So if the goal is 1k words a day (about 5 pages the way I tend to write) then brainstorming or editing the same amount of words (or effort) is half that.