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Truth is Stranger Than Fiction

August 25, 2010

In my former life, I once held an open house at the wrong house. I had written down the wrong address, and then when I got there, wondered why the key didn’t work. But I’m prone to seeing things through rose-colored glasses. People whisper “there must be a pony in there somewhere,” when I walk by. I fully admit and embrace it.

It didn’t occur to me I was actually in someone’s house and they had no intention of selling. I cleaned up the kitchen, washed dishes, opened windows, made the beds. Worked my buns off for about 20 minutes before I set out my signs. I had maybe three people through, and I thought it was just a bad day, because I was new.

Except the agent and the seller I was supposed to be helping out were both a little angry at me. Well, this became my inspiration for a contemporary story I am writing now (except no one likes my characters yet, but I’ll not give up…) called the Accidental SEAL. I drew on another true event that happened, showing a house to a nice young minister and his wife and finding someone asleep on the bed in the master stark naked with a boner. (Can we say that?) So then, why not have the Realtor do the open house at the wrong house, and find this hunky guy having a wet dream with his headphones on? And now let’s make him a…..

Navy Seal, who has been trained to detain

the enemy and question them. He is on a secret

mission to find his awol bud.

Well, you should hear the judges comments. (Oh yes, and one editor who didn’t like my characters one bit.) I mean if a naked guy tied you up with your own pantyhose and rummaged through your Coach bag ripping out the lining looking for some sort of contraband, wouldn’t you dislike him too? I thought it was hooky for a beginning. So far, the powers that be don’t.

The comment I loved the best was, “Any Realtor worth their salt would immediately know this was the wrong house.” Point well taken. I admit I should have. But I didn’t do the prudent thing. I did the ridiculous thing, fueled by my own ego at the time.

But that’s what makes a great story, the blending of some pretty insane ideas, right? We ask ourselves, “what if…” and then let our minds wander. Paranormal romance is fun just to see what new creatures they come up with. Who knew dragons could have a sweet side? Giant squids have a lust for human flesh? And vampires go camping? Now what ghost stories do they tell around the campfire at night? Do they roast marshmallows? Do their s’mores bleed?

In romance, the two lovers get together and there’s a happily ever after. In suspense, the mystery is solved. In horror, the beast is killed or goes on in secret to ruin another day.

There’s a bit of true life in all my stories. I’ll bet most writers feel the same way.

What about you? Have you ever written a story inspired by something that really happened? As a writer, what inspires you to write a good story? As a reader, what inspires you when you read one?

26 Comments leave one →
  1. Laura McCann permalink
    August 25, 2010 12:39 am

    Great post, Sharon!! Stories come from all over the place and don’t always make sense, but they are fun and exciting!

  2. August 25, 2010 3:45 am

    It’s interesting that you blogged about this today. I was having dinner with a friend last night and during the conversation, she told me about the mother of one her friends. The story was very funny and tied in with a story idea that I had been tossing around. I’m definitely using a similar version of this incident in my story, and actually, I think it will add a lot.

    So, yes, I definitely pull things into my work from my life (or others that I hear about). I hope you can laugh about the wrong open house thing now.

  3. amycorwin permalink
    August 25, 2010 9:44 am

    What a riot!
    I can see that happening though–once you mentioned the ego thing. Frankly, I think anyone is “believable” as long as the writer provides sufficient justification/explanation. Human being will do a lot of crazy stuff thanks to their egos–particularly after they make one mistake to initiate the rest of the craziness…

    • August 25, 2010 11:00 am

      Thanks for your comment, Amy. Yes, sometimes we have to make our things look believable, when they really are stranger on the truth side. I do get a kick out of writing odd and quirky things. Part of my personality. We get to do a little of that as writers, right?

  4. Stephanie Kayne permalink
    August 25, 2010 9:48 am

    Life makes for such interesting story fodder! I have quite a collection of real life instances that I need to modify to make believable. (someone trying to sell ‘memorial puppies’ at a memorial service is probably the most unbelievable event I’ve ever witnessed.)

    Great post Sharon!

    • August 25, 2010 10:58 am

      Oh the puppies! That’s funny. You probably have the same reaction to the fact that some people put, “In Memory Of” on the windows of their cars or trucks. I always think that maybe they got inheritance money and bought the truck with the money or something. It comes across as well, weird, in my book.

      Thanks for stopping by!

  5. August 25, 2010 10:24 am

    Riley,
    Thanks for stopping by. Yes, I was legendary for awhile. Tried not to make too much of it, but you know how large companies go…
    The really funny thing is I’m not alone. I have a good friend who did the same thing. In our defense, we were given the address by the agent we were supposed to be helping, and there was no sign yet. But I made all the mistakes in the book when I was new…and yes, I have a good laugh.

  6. Danielle Gavan permalink
    August 25, 2010 10:41 am

    You SEAL story sounds fuuuuun, and isn’t the point of reading fiction to escape reality? What better way to do that than to read about a Realtor who isn’t quite there yet and gets the house wrong only to find out it might just be the “right” one?

    • August 25, 2010 11:02 am

      EXACTLY!! Now that’s what I thought. Wrong house, right guy. And, okay, he’s a little on the edge, but training takes over and – well he scares her but doesn’t really hurt her (although she’s thinking he will). Is that violence against women? Not unless we start complaining about how many pints of blood innocent luscious women give to their vampire lovers without their permission!!

      Wait a minute, this is fiction, right?

  7. August 25, 2010 11:00 am

    Hi Sharon,
    Enjoyed this and hope the story gets the recognition it deserves..lots. My first book in the Huachuca Trilogy is based on one-liners my brother-in-law threw out about his grandmother. One story had to do with her stopping a runaway Model T, filled with kids, using her feet and back. A couple of years later the museum in Bisbee, AZ included the story in a new exhibit! Somethimes truth becomes fiction.

    • August 25, 2010 11:18 am

      Arletta,
      What a fantastic story! I can just see it. That definitely belongs in a museum. Some of these treasures from the others around us, they are indeed priceless. Great storytelling is based on some common connection between the reader and writer. Hopefully, if we do our job right, the reader will want to come along again and again.

      Thank you for sharing that today!

  8. susan888 permalink
    August 25, 2010 12:53 pm

    Hi Sharon

    There are things that have happened in my life to me and friends that no one would believe as fiction! Sometimes you have to adapt them for ‘nonbelieving’ agents, editors and critiquers, but I think they lose a lot of their freshness and originality that way. I’m glad the paranormal world exists to give them room to play.

    • August 25, 2010 4:00 pm

      Susan,
      Yes, I think this is why there has been such a swing to the paranormal in the past 5 years, not that there hasn’t been a good solid fanbase there for decades. If the rules don’t fit, well, we create our own worlds, right? That’s what I love about it. In contemporary fiction, without “elements” of the paranormal, we have to stay to what is “believable” in the “real” world, whatever that is…

      Thanks for taking the time to stop by.

  9. August 25, 2010 1:38 pm

    Sharon, ideas come from anywhere don’t they. I was roflmao about the wrong house open house.

    • August 25, 2010 4:04 pm

      Yes, Jill. Who knew I was such a ditzy person. Maybe I just like getting into trouble, like some of my heroes and heroines, just to see what kind of good I can make out of it. Although, it was hard to show my face around the office for a spell…Only thing that softened the gossip is when I made top producer for the year. But I still think there are people to this day who haven’t forgiven me for doing something so rude as to out-produce them. We’ll be talking about putting some of those characters in our stories some day soon. Now that will be another fun post…

      Thanks for your support.

  10. Lee permalink
    August 25, 2010 1:57 pm

    Real life is the best thing when it comes to story writing and ideas. There things that happen in life, where you think to yourself or say to a friend, “You just can’t make this shit up!”

    • August 25, 2010 4:08 pm

      True! So True! Just wonder who Mary Shelley was hanging around when she wrote Frankenstein.

      And on the light side, there are miracles that happen every day as well. If we’d tried to orchestrate something like them, we couldn’t, but they seem to fall at random.

      I like the idea of “Father” taking great delight in watching us crash into things like bumper cars! LOL.

  11. August 26, 2010 1:23 am

    Hey-hey-hey!

    It’s another Wonderful Wednesday @Wicked Writers!

    Go Sharon! I love your posts! Anything that makes me laugh and think at the same time can’t be all that bad, right?

    People have always told me with as ‘colorful’ (aka – bizarre, shocking, down right odd) as my life has been, I need to publish a book or star on Oprah. (Jerry Springer is more like it.)

    I figure the folks saying that are either being too nice to me or need to get a life.

    However, since old Jerry isn’t on anymore, and I need to accomplish something with my life (other than succeeding in finding out cousins married all the time in my family) I’ll opt for the book(s). More stimulating to the brain than television anyway.

    Butter me bum and call me Aunt Fanny – but I really like that real estate agent/wrong house/strange SEAL tied to the bed with panty hose situation…

    It would go over real good in the GLBT world! Can you imagine the fun we could have with a Transvestite as either the home owner or the real estate agent? Make the SEAL guy bi-curious? Throw in a creepy carnival of caniverous crazed clowns and you have a story of whoop-@ss fun!

    Oh GAWDS! Sharon – I’m like all a twitter! The story-mones are pumping I want to write this tale now! It would be a sooo fab!

    Don’t editors know what’s fun to read anymore? Sheesh!

    As for Mary Shelley – take into consideration her weird upbringing, philosophical father, her husband’s and their social circle’s liberal political theories, and being a buddy of Lord Bryon – ummm, I understand why she thought up Frankenstine.

    Where I get ideas = (like do you really want to know?) I get a lot of good story ideas spying on my neighbors, sitting in the local beergardens listening to folks talk, standing outside the IGA store and reading the church bulletin.

    I completely defend myself on most of my spy techniques.

    If one is gonna ‘air’ all their dirty laundry over the cell phone in the back yard (so much that the loud, gossiping voice drifts on the winds to my open windows) – or are prone not to shut their curtains at night (while giving into certain acts that require discretion) – or do entertain practices with no consideration whose writing office is incased in a screened porch two flights up, facing the street with a ariel view of 180 degrees — then, yes, I am going to use this information for story ideas. Just have to change the names, street numbers and tweak it a bit for my amusement…

    (It also helps to have a land lady who has four types of scanners going on at all times and takes the news pulse of the community seriously…) I make it a daily special to have dinner with Pat. If Pat doesn’t know it – it’ ain’t worth knowing in this hick town…

    Besides, having a land lady like Pat and her four scanners may come in handy for that day when all the zombies start descending on the town of Bellevue.

    Ah yes. Life in the good old country hometown, USA. Growing up in the northern woods, I always thought small towns were so boring. Now, with the internet, cable, cell phones and sex change operations, you wouldn’t believe how weird things have become in the past 30 years…

    • August 26, 2010 10:52 am

      George, it is truly a gift to see what you can do with my material. Steal away! Go ahead. I’d love for some of the editors who read my piece read yours and think, hmmmm…something familiar about that, and then think I just wigged out. I say let ’em wig and wiggle. But the chances are slim to none, so no worries.

      I love it when one person’s idea inspires another to fire off in a different tangent. Love the clowns, the bi-curious. I never had her tied to the bed, but that might work. I did have him think her nametag, which poked him right in the middle of a delicious pec, was a secret ops poison pen.

      I love this group and all that contribute!

  12. August 26, 2010 3:06 am

    My mom was a real estate agent for 20 plus years and she has all sorts of crazy stories that happened to her while she was showing houses and other such things (one time, she made some popcorn and watched the super bowel at an open house just cause no one came). It must be a real estate thing. Lol.

    Fun post. I was laughing out loud just picturing you all flustered while trying to get the key to work – another thing my mom’s done several times before!

    • August 26, 2010 12:19 pm

      Thanks, JD. Your mother is a warrior and tell her I said so. I once thought about doing an anthology, but was told there wouldn’t be enough readership, although it seems like everyone has or had a license at one time!

  13. August 26, 2010 10:52 am

    I still can’t help but laugh over the boner scene, classic!! Ahh… good times…

  14. August 26, 2010 11:21 am

    Enjoyed the post! I love it– Showing casing the wrong house. OMGOD. lol Well, at least you tidied up the place. That has to be worth something.

    Of course, I pull things that happened to me into my books and then put another spin on them. lol

    I took a tour beneath St. Michan’s church in Ireland where they have mummies. My characters in Lost in the Mist of Time take the same tour, but the heroine has a ghostly experience with her tour.

    Sorry to say no ghostly experience for us, but we did touch the hand of the seven-foot tall crusader. It was suppose to be for good luck. Perhaps a little luck did rub off, I had an inspiration for a story. lol

    • August 26, 2010 12:24 pm

      Thanks, Karen, for stopping by. I would have given anything to see the look on their faces when they got my “thank you” note I left on the kitchen table. I guess I’m glad now I was too green to leave my card, just signed it “Sharon”.

      A seven foot tall crusader! I’ll bet it was good luck. That feels like another story. Yes, I think our travels and tours of unfamiliar places does spark in us some creative muse. We imagine all sorts of things. Your story sounds compelling. Can’t wait to read it.

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