Thursday, May 19, 2011

The Exploding Bus

It started with an exploding bus.

No, wait... it started before then. About a year before then. One of the teachers I worked with knew I was writing a book. And she wanted in. Begged and pleaded--okay, asked once. When I got to a situation where I needed a name for a character--one I thought was going to be minor--I plugged it in.

The character ended up being a major one.

Once I signed a book deal for WHEN ONE MAN DIES and a sequel, people started coming out of the woodwork. They wanted to be in the book. It was constant. Everyone wanted a role... and comedically enough, they all wanted to die.

I had about 15 people ask to be murder victims.

And I was going to do it... I was going to put them all in the book.

And kill them off.

The question was how. How do you kill off fifteen people and not turn it into a teenage horror comedy with more snark than heart? And for a minute, I thought I had it.

I was going to blow up a bus. And then print the passenger list. Of course one of the victims would be an important character and the rest innocent people I knew. It was a great idea, I thought. Fun for me and my friends. Believable for the audience too.

Except I couldn't come up with a reason why I should blow up a bus. It didn't fit the book.

So, since then, I've been sneaking in names of my friends as character names. My friends, co-workers, and family love it. They get a kick out of it.

The rest of you have no idea. Each of my books has people I know in it. And it helps with characterization too. I give some of the traits of my friends to the characters in the book. Helps give them believable quirks.

And believe me, my friends are quirky.

So, my question is this, knowing that I do this... knowing that a lot of other authors probably do it as well, will you now find it distracting? Will you try to figure out who's named after a real person and who's completely fictional?

I know I don't.



Want to talk WITNESS spoilers? Comment here.


Gerald So said...

I find it somewhat distracting if I know a character is named after a real person, like Scott Neumyer or Ryan Krewer. Many authors do this, though. I don't know all their friends' names, so it's not a major distraction.

Incidentally, I make a point *not* to name characters after anyone I know. For some reason, doing so stalls my writing. I have taken bits of description and personality from people I know, but my characters end up being new people.

Dana King said...

I don't look for them. Hell, I wouldn't recognize them if I found them. It's a little harmless fun for the author and friend alike, and they can be Easter eggs for mutual acquaintances.

(Word verification = coweetr. A person who is not a vegetarian.)

John McFetridge said...

In a Michael Connelly novel a couple of reporters, Sarah Weinman and Duane Swierczynski, kind of jumped off the page but then it gave me the feeling of being in on an in joke.

When I need names of characters from other countries or ethnic backgrounds I usually name them after guys on the national soccer teams from those countries.

Anonymous said...

John lets me donate the naming of a character to my company's charity auction every year. However, most of my co-workers don't want to be anyone unsavoury so it can make it difficult.