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Stranger than fiction… can it be true?

September 23, 2010

OK, dear readers…. getting even with someone who’s riled me? Have I ever written a character to help me deal with my anger?

Well, let me tell you something… anger? A little strong, perhaps… catharsis might be more appropriate…  But imagine losing your job (not difficult to imagine these days). Would you want to get your own back on the guy giving you the push? Especially if you had been doing most of the work and he only seemed to be window dressing (at times, anyway)… Oh! And I forgot… it is your company!

Stranger than fiction...

It’s true, I tell you! Imagine it… there I was, one sunny August Monday morning, stepping into my office as CEO of a public limited company – my company, the company I founded – ready to face another day struggling with a depressed economy and the increasing fallout of the sub-prime crisis, when my business partner says to me: “David, we want you off the board and out of the company. Period.” (Or words to that effect, at least!)

Well, what’s a guy to do? A guy who is burning to write a story? I write one, don’t I!

This is a work of fiction.
All characters and events in this publication, other than
those clearly in the public domain, are fictitious and any resemblance to
real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental. All companies
and locations are either the product of the author’s
imagination or, if real, used fictitiously.

Are there any recognizable characters in it? Well, that would be telling… but since the idea of this post is to enlighten you, dear reader, I can offer you one possible answer!

In UK employment law (and I am sure that it is not too different in the US), there is a thing called a “Compromise Agreement” and one of the things in that legal agreement is a requirement for me not to bring the name of the company or its directors or staff into disrepute. There are also laws on slander and libel! Of course I didn’t write about anybody in my old company! Of course… because there must have been a perfectly good reason why I had to leave! Must there not? It was my own decision. Was it not? Of course it was – the agreement said as much!

So the story I wrote is not about my company, my exit, my business partner or my colleagues! The only truth of the matter was that the hero leaves his company. It was so true, in fact, that one reviewer had to suspend disbelief:

“This story has more twists than a corkscrew and I reached a point where I simply had to keep reading to find out what would happen next. On more than one occasion I simply couldn’t see how the situation could be retrieved. It’s superbly, cleverly done. I had to suspend disbelieve over how easily Finn was initially ousted from Tiger Oil, but after that I was hooked.”

Suspension of disbelief? Really! The only (possibly) true bit in the fiction, and… well, I won’t carp on about it.

But how did I handle characterization? How did I not get sucked into a potential legal minefield of libel and slander? Well, I made a conscious effort to select a board of directors who were most definitely not images of my acquaintance. (I had no money for a court case!) I found a real oil company, with a real board of directors and said: “Hey-ho, these are the guys for me!”

Old Town, Nice... nice spot for people watching!

But isn’t it funny… have you ever sat in a café (the South of France is brilliant for this – sorry, name dropping again) and just watched the world go by? You see someone. They have a physical presence, characteristics, mannerisms… all good stuff for observation. And then you sit there and imagine them in conversation… imagine who their lover might be, who their partner is, what happened to them that morning, what is going to happen next… you project them into another reality – your reality. They are malleable… you can dress them (undress them!)… you can see things in their character that might (oops), accidentally of course, remind you of other people. (Now, isn’t that strange!) You could even murder them!

“Ooooooo,” I hear you say, “…did you say murder?”

“I did,” I say, smiling; a little sardonically, perhaps. “I am a thriller writer.”

“Did you really project the character of your business partner onto one of the characters in the story? And then murder him?” you say.

“Of course not…” I smile again, wink, in a knowing sort of way, and continue “…I sold him a copy of the book, of course! He loved it.”

“So, no revenge then?”

I consider your question thoughtfully for a moment longer than is perhaps strictly necessary. Rubbing my chin, I reply.

“Have you ever heard the saying, ‘revenge is a dish best served cold’?” says I. “There is a series in this!” I laugh. The sound of my laughter echoes, eerily, as though it is being channelled down some tightly narrowing but endless passage, bouncing ceaselessly, carelessly off the walls, until it disappears in the distance, a faint reminder of the past.


Oh… and the competition? How remiss of me, I nearly forgot!


Gloria...

Well, since I will post a real “printed” and signed copy of my book “River of Judgement” to the lucky winner, who may well be in the US, then I will make this one challenging… Go to Smashwords, download a free copy of my short story Gloria, read it and leave me an honest review there. Then post a response here on WickedWriters with an answer to this question: “Which character in Gloria is a character based on someone I have known?” There is only one right answer. No marks will be deducted for honesty in the review! In the event of more than one correct answer there will be a tie breaker. The tie breaker will be the most accurate (or amusing) answer to the question “Which renowned classic short story writer influenced the plot of Gloria?” All runners-up (anyone who actually enters) will receive a consolation prize. Bon chance, mes braves!

7 Comments leave one →
  1. October 7, 2010 4:50 am

    David,
    I thought you were lying about the comments, because I left one. But perhaps was there a word monster here 2 weeks ago? Ate them all with fava beans and a good Chianti? I’ve loved writing in coffee houses in Majorca, Capri (after the tourist boats leave) under a pink bougainvillea, in a pizza bar in Copenhagen, or open-air cafe overlooking a street faire in Southern France. Just seeing the picture in your post makes me want to hop a plane. I don’t mind if we get to the airport early, the people are so fun to watch, and write about.

    • October 7, 2010 3:15 pm

      Hi, Sharon. I believe you! Those word monsters are a cruel irony, left behind by the great god Bill Gates… (or that’s my take on it!)

      Fava beans and Chianti? Now your talking, girl! Set the table for two!! 🙂

  2. October 7, 2010 7:34 am

    I think you should fire your scheduler. How could they possible eff up and put you in the contest slot two weeks later?

    I know I read this post, I could have sworn I commented. So sorry I didn’t. David – did you promo your contest on Fb or twitter? I’ve found that really helps to drive readers to the contests.

    • October 7, 2010 3:19 pm

      Fire my scheduler? I wouldn’t dream of it, CJ – how could anyone possibly follow her? I know I couldn’t! And given the word monster lurking hereabouts, I am pretty sure you did comment! 🙂

  3. Kris M permalink
    October 7, 2010 10:30 am

    David,

    Sorry I missed this post the first time around. I’ll do the competition but I have to comment on something first. I am an aspiring novelist working on my first manuscript. I too was ousted very easily from a partnership in a law firm for reasons I will not discuss – libel issues here in U.S. and all that stuff. But I also included the ‘firm’ in my manuscript — with enough changes to not get me sued. So I think it’s great that you did the same thing. It gave me a little bit of justice though I didn’t kill anyone off I did make them look like the asses they were/are.

    Great post and I think your book sounds awesome..

    • October 7, 2010 3:23 pm

      Hi Kris, thanks for stopping by. I look forward to your entry! You could well be in with a great chance!

      Your own MS sounds intriguing… do keep us posted on your progress. I love a sense of justice. 🙂

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