I’m sitting in my local library, taking an hour to write. It is not a commitment I live up to every day, though I have no excuse not to. As one guest at a book party for Shelter Us gently pointed out, my next novel need not take 7 years; I have no more pre-schoolers hampering my writing time.
I listened, dear reader. I’m here, ready to write.
And all I can think is When did the library get so freakin’ LOUD?? It’s not just the kids and babies, although it is partly the kids and babies, their shouts and cries very much part of the mix. It’s the adults! The people talking to the librarian, the librarian talking to people, a guy at a computer talking either to himself or people via Blue Tooth (it’s unclear)…and now two adorable little boys have discovered the electric pencil sharpener???
Settle down, I tell myself. You have a choice: leave in search of a more opportune place that may not exist, or stay and use this moment in your fiction. Hmmm. It takes me three seconds to realize that the protagonist in this next book — a teenage girl — is working on a research project that will take her interesting places. Let’s put her at the library, shall we?
There we go. One of my most reliable methods to create realistic, genuine characters and situations is to take something I have experienced, or am experiencing in real time, and twist it to fit the fictional story. The emotions are real, but the place or circumstances are tweaked. (Perhaps that explains the reason for multiple scenes at Starbucks in Shelter Us.)
At the L.A. Times Festival of Books, one of my favorite authors, Hector Tobar, described this method as “casting” passersby in his fiction. Lady with dyed magenta hair who walks with a cane? You’re in! Boy sneezing into his elbow? Gotcha!
The library has quieted down now.
I suppose I’ll need to start making stuff up.