Good Morning, Folks!
It’s a lovely, sunny Sunday in central Florida, after a drizzly, gray Saturday. Happily, yesterday’s weather didn’t stop anyone from attending my talk on Owls at the gorgeous DeBary Hall Historic Mansion.
In fact, we had four extras show up, but had plenty of open space at the back of the room to accommodate them at a safe distance from everyone else. And as you can see from this week’s header image above, I’m still in an owlish kinda mood. (This is a barred owl, btw, my favorite of all.) And talking about these wonderful birds yesterday, gave me the idea for this post today.
We’re often encouraged or advised to “write what we know,” and in general, I tend to do that, as all of my books are set in the southern part of the United States (just as *I* am), and feature the kinds of people I’ve known all my life. (Except for the serial killer in Swamp Ghosts. I confess, I’ve known some unpleasant folks over the years, but none that I know of have ever gone so far as to kill people and feed ’em to the local alligators! 😉 )
But, in general, I do write people I understand and who speak in a manner I’m familiar with. I also go a step farther by including habitats and wildlife I’m familiar with, too. I like to set up a scene so that readers will feel like they’re “there” along with the characters. For me, this can include describing a canoe trip on the St. John’s river, or a walk through a Florida wetlands area, or a slippery climb down a rock face beside a North Carolina waterfall. I think many of us do this when setting up a scene, and if done well, I believe (hope!) it makes it all more real to readers. But I want to take it a step farther today.
Here’s my question for you: do you ever include things from your real life that only your friends or family would likely recognize? Maybe as a private joke, or maybe simply because whatever it is happens to fit well with what you’re writing? I do, even though I don’t set out with that in mind. It’s just that as I’m typing along, I think of a familiar item or happening, or even a line of dialogue, that is part of my life in one way or another, and find myself including it.
For example, in Swamp Ghosts, one of my secondary (but pretty important) characters is Lester Purvis who drives an ancient, primer red and gray, 1967 VW bus. I’m very familiar with this bus, as is everyone who knows Mark and I, because it’s parked in our garage. My husband has had it since the early 80s, and, like Lester, has always planned to restore it to its former glory. (He drives it for short errands on the weekends, and can’t stop at a traffic light without someone pulling up beside it and yelling out to ask if it’s for sale.) You would be staggered to know how much he’s been offered for it, even with all the body work it needs. Apparently, being the last year they made VWs with the split windshield gives it some serious collectability.
(Taken many years ago. Nothing much has changed.)
The VW is one of the more obvious personal tidbits I’ve tucked into my books, just for fun, but I find myself drawing on small events and funny moments from my own life fairly often. I’ve also mentioned a real person now and then, like my friend Bev who owns the DeBary Nursery, where my character Willow Greene likes to buy plants for her herb garden. Heck, even the barred owl that greets Sarah on her arrival at Wake-Robin Ridge is taken from my life. Everything is fair game, I figure, as long as it doesn’t violate anyone’s privacy, and it actually fits into the moment I’m writing about. (Bev was thrilled, btw. She sells my books at her shop and one of her customers who’d bought a copy of Finding Hunter from her returned to get Bev’s autograph after reading the scene! 😀 )
So, your turn now. Have you ever included something of this nature in your own books? Maybe as a little nod to a friend or family member? Or just to make yourself smile as you’re writing? Tell us about it in the comments below, since, as always, inquiring minds wanna know. Especially if you’ve ever included any private jokes or situations that only some would recognize.
Thanks! And have a beautiful, peaceful, productive day! 🙂