So Be Good for Creative Writing’s Sake


I don’t claim to be Santa Claus. I don’t see you when you’re sleeping. And unless you’re right in front of me, I have no idea whether you’re awake or not.

But I might have an idea of whether you’ve been bad or good. So just to be on the safe side, you might want to be good. For creative writing’s sake, if nothing else.

It doesn’t matter if we creative writers are writing realistic fiction or fantastical fiction, our efforts are still reality-based. No matter how original our finished products are, we still get initial inspiration from what already exists, whether that’s things, places or people.

Especially people. That’s why there’s so much creative writing paraphernalia out there that goes something like this: Be careful what you say or do around me, or you might end up in my novel.

The implication is that the person being addressed isn’t going to come out looking good if they don’t watch out.

Sometimes, that portrayal is a direct act of revenge. Sometimes, it’s a creative writing way of coping. But honestly? Sometimes it’s just really, really convenient.

In my case, I can’t think of any true-to-life characters I’ve employed out of a strict sense of revenge. I may have, but I can’t recall any such examples off the top of my head. Though I definitely have gone the coping route before, and it’s amazing how well that can work.

Really though, the main reason why I might stick someone’s name into a novel in an unflattering light is because I’m terrible at coming up with last names for secondary characters. That is just not one of my creative writing strong suits.

I’ll struggle like crazy to make my brain work properly in this regard, but it always comes up with something entirely predictable and boring like Anderson or Smith or Roberts (no offense to any of those last names). And there’s only so many Andersons, Smiths and Roberts you can use across multiple novels.

I’ve gone through phone books before. I’ve looked up “most common last names” in Italy, England, Scotland and Ireland depending on the nationality or national heritage of a character. But I think that, going forward, I’m just going to take a list out of Santa Claus’ book: the naughty side, in particular.

From now on, I’m going to keep my own list of people who have gotten on my nerves in any way, shape or form. Maybe I’ll rank them on a scale of one to five, with five being a mere nuisance and one being the scum of the Earth.

If you for some reason fall onto that list, don’t worry. I’ll make sure to do you justice from start to finish. Your tragic backstory will be acknowledged if I’m aware of it. And I won’t make you any worse than the emotions and/or actions I’ve seen you exude.

Someone who’s an emotional drain on my existence isn’t going to become a new novel’s murderous main villain, for instance. And any darling siblings (even brothers) or friends out there who have annoyed me once or twice are safe. They’re not on the naughty list at all since they’ve put up with my own stupidity a time or two as well.

But for all you random people out there I might happen to run into, if you ever pick up a Jeannette DiLouie novel and see your personality being vividly described through a less-than-flattering secondary character who happens to share your last name…

Don’t blame me for putting you on my creative writing naughty list. If you can’t bring yourself to cast the blame appropriately, then go yell at Santa Claus. I got the idea from him.

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