Upon discovering that the primary character in my novel is actually a fictionalized version of…me.
So I’ve been writing this mystery. I set it in Louisiana (my homeland), with a French-Catholic sleuth (my upbringing), who is of Acadian descent (my cultural heritage), in a fictional town called St. Lucy (my middle name), living on a sugar cane farm (my house), with a raging addiction to coffee (a la me), two bickering brother-types (lucky me!), and masses of crazy relatives (mine again) who like to drop in uninvited, but always bring a coffee cake. (That part I made up. Usually, my cousins show up expecting coffee cake, not carrying one.)
Oddly enough, I still claim this novel is fiction.
I wrote an entire first draft before I discovered that the sleuth is really me. And by “discovered” I mean that a writer friend read it and said, “Wow, your sleuth is really you.”
And get this—up hearing that, I had the nerve to be surprised. Oh, sure, I recognized the similarities noted above, but I was going for that write what you know thing. And since I have a good first (second, third, nineteenth) draft completed, I’m not going to ditch it just because I failed to recognize that I was writing about an Other Me the whole time.
I’m not alone in this. Lots of writers live vicariously through their characters. You’ve heard it before:
“I hate my boss, so I got revenge by killing him in a story.”
“My nosy sister in law? Wait till you read what I did to her in chapter seven!”
“My lying, cheating ex and his wing wang finally got what they deserve on page 8.”
“I put a little family joke in there. Did you catch it?”
The comeuppance led me to do some major thinking about Other Me and her back story and likes and peculiarities, and that is a good thing. Best of all, once I got past that moment of chagrin, I decided to embrace the Other Me and make her a better, more interesting me.
So this is what I did. I gave her a few quirks that I definitely don’t possess. She’s a wild driver with an interest in fancy cars. (The real me has never gotten speeding ticket and my interest in cars never goes past if it runs well.) She wears sexy lingerie, even though she sleeps alone. (So far. For her, I mean. The real me…you don’t need to know this, do you?) She has more advanced degrees, a better wardrobe, a nicer singing voice and an interest in voodoo. (Okay, that one we share, and that’s all I’m saying about it.)
She also has a lot of dead people in her life. That part, I’m happy to say, is totally fiction.
But now I realize something else. Other Me has two brothers, who will certainly recognize themselves, since I virtually quoted some of their idiotic fights from our childhood.
In real life, I have a sister. Other Me does not.
Help. I might be in trouble now.