Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Don't Tell Them That!

Contest update: To Debra and David, I have not forgotten about you. My book hasn't dropped to print yet (although my publisher are doing their very best to clear out the backlog, for which I am extremely grateful) and as soon as it does, I will ship it out to you.

I would to share with a few pearls of wisdom that I have learned the hard way while I have been on this curious writing journey.

 Don't tell certain people that they're the source of inspiration for a given story.

This is especially pertinent if you write the kind of fiction that I write (here, here and here). This is the fastest way of a) making someone feel wickedly uncomfortable, and b) killing a friendship.

Think about it for a minute. If you write fiction that is flavored to varying degrees with sex, do you really want to tell a particular individual that they inspired you to write a steamy story?

While they may be flattered at first for all about ten seconds, that feeling will change faster than a politician with no courage of their convictions once they get hold of your story and read it. If it contains anything like I write (women of color are the main characters, either overtly or implied), I can almost guarantee that you will have the equivalent of a .45 pointed at an area between the legs while you try to explain their assumption would be incorrect.

So to cure this potential problem, if those friends (my circle of friends are predominately female) of yours ask about your inspiration, lie like a dog. You'll be thankful that you did, and more importantly, you'll still be in one piece AND your friends will still be your friends.

 Don't tell certain people that you didn't write them into a particular story.

If you have a spouse or friend who knows about your writing and is generally supportive of your writing endeavors, and they happen to inquire on whether or not they're written into a particular story that you're working on, don't come down with a case of the honestys and tell them no. That is the worst possible thing that you can say, because it will create conflict and a argument where there was none before.

Again, think about it for a minute. If they know about the story that you're working on, and you've talked about it in excruciating detail for months on end, don't let them assume anything other than they might be part of the story. If you keep them in the dark, they'll be happy and you'll be happy (and still friends/married).

For the record, I have told one person that they were written into a story of mine, and that was because they won a contest. For details, check out part one and part two of that particular contest.

Don't tell people what you really write.

This may sound overly paranoid, but if people know you as relatively well balanced individual with a strange sense of humor and you have developed/cultivated that particular reputation for years/decades, for God's sake, don't tell people what you write, if what you write is polar opposite of who you are.

Case in point: my friends and co-workers have a tough time reconciling the person they know with what I write for fiction. Think I'm kidding? I've had conversations that start and end like this:

Me: "I do a little writing on the side."
They: "Really? What do you write?"
Me: "Adult fantasy/erotica."
They: "Ummm...that's interesting."

So if a casual acquaintance/co-worker happens to ask you what you write, and you damn well know that if you give a honest answer you'll be hoisted by your own petard, do what I do: create a new genre called "quirky fiction" and tell them exactly that. That way, your reputation remains relatively intact and people won't look at you sideways.

So my friends, those are my pearls of wisdom when it comes to explaining the writing side of my life to friends, family and co-workers. When it comes to strangers that I carry on casual conversations, then I disregard the first two and throw caution to the wind with the third.

How 'bout you? Any lessons learned or gleaned from your years of writing that you simply do not do anymore in the company of people that you know?


  1. I typically tell people that anyone written into my stories is combined with many others to create a character so that a character is not based on a single person. That is generally true.

  2. "Quirky fiction" -- great phrase! And oh yes, I know the book is on its way -- no problems!

  3. Haha! I love the wit of this post. Lessons...hmm...writing nonfiction stuff and children's fiction, not really. But I did learn, the hard way, not to have a writer friend read anything out of his comfort zone (in this case children's fiction.)

  4. Charles: Good philosophy/explanation to have. I still have to work on that hybrid blending of people. So far, the most blending that I've done is to take certain qualities that I admire in people to help create a more well rounded character.

    Debra: Thanks. "Quirky" seems to aptly describe my writing as of late.

    I always want to let people know when something I intend to do winds up being delayed. One of the few things that I'm proud is my word. If I say I'm going to do something, I do it. If there's a problem, I let people know up front.

    M: It's very tough to read something out of your comfort zone (I'm living proof of that) but if you approach it with an open mind, the possibilities are endless.

    Speaking of which, feel free to send samples along for me to use and abuse. :D

  5. I think Charles is right - I use people's character traits but would never base a character solely on someone I knew - it's far more satisfying creating a new character than using one you know anyway. As you say, if you want to stay married and keep your friends you're better off keeping your mouth shut! I only occasionally mention friends on my blog but no one's ever objected - either cos I've asked them beforehand or because they know that I'm only ever going to write silly harmless stuff anyway. That's not to say sometimes I haven't been tempted to get irritating things off my chest but at the end of the day I prefer to create relationships rather than to destroy them.

  6. Ha -- "quirky fiction"! Love that! :)

    And I am quite honored to know that I am the one person who knows they have been written into one of your stories -- a quirky contest for your quirky fiction! :) (By the way, I totally consider "quirky" to be a compliment!)

    I've been meaning to let you know that I have NOT forgotten about your book, I just had several books lined up in my queue and have been working my way through all of them -- I have way too many books (if that's possible :)). I'll get to it soon, I promise!

  7. And don't use their physical description and their initials and then try to tell them it isn't them. LOL

  8. Jane: I have learned that particular lesson the very hard way, so I definitely practice the composite character/characteristic blend with all of my stories.

    As for mentioning friends, I've only done that on this blog, and it's only been people from the blog world. With real world friends, I respect their request of not being identified by name or initials.

    Lisa: Thanks. And you're more than welcome.

    At the time, I thought it was a great way to get over the last little hump that I needed to clear in order to finish the story.

    And I can definitely sympathize in regards to having a long list of books in the queue. I have three others in mine that I've just recently jumbled the order of due to picking up an ARC from a fellow writer.

    G.A.: Yup. Been there and done that. And gotten in deep doggie doo for doing it.


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G. B. Miller

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