Writing Friends as Characters in Stories

Writing Friends as Characters in Stories

I have really enjoyed writing stories that star my friends as main characters. It’s a lot of fun to read the stories out loud in a gathering and get real life reactions to my work. People generally have a great time whether they’re the hero or just a corpse in the corner of the crazy person’s basement.

In high school I used to write one or two a month during Bible Quiz trips. Everyone who went on the trip was a character in the story. It was usually a very short story in which I would put all my friends as characters that would share a name with the real life person but maybe not a lot else. My friends and I became everything from flawed superheroes to computer software icons. It was all good fun and it taught me how to write for a specific audience. I learned how to make my friends laugh or cringe with how I worded my sentences or how I chose to reveal a detail.

Recently I sat down to write another story with friends as characters and I was having a really hard time capturing the tone that I was going for. I haven’t written a successful story this way in a while. There have been attempts but nothing that I’ve been really happy with.

So what’s going on with me? Why can’t I seem to capture this type of writing right now? What am I doing wrong? Do I not know my friends anymore? Is this happening because I can’t be there? I used to write these every month! How can the skills be gone so fast?

These questions made me go back to all the old stories I’d written. Every story that I wrote in this way, I had on my computer. So I read a few and here’s what I was missing: the essence of my friends. Which is a weird thing to say and is going to take a little explaining.

(I’m changing my friend’s names for this next part because I’m too lazy to ask them if they mind I use their real names) In one story I wrote my friend Kyle was an inmate from a prison (he’s never been to jail), Jake and Mark were six years old (they were teenagers), and I was a woman in her mid thirties (I was also a teenager). This was the first story I ever wrote with friends as characters and it’s still one of my favorites.

What struck me as soon as I read it again was that these characters were almost nothing like my friends in real life. They were different ages, had different backgrounds and weird family relationships that don’t exist in real life. What made them my friends in the story were the small mannerisms that they shared with their real life counterparts. They had the same attitudes and said things that they would say in real life. They also said things they wouldn’t say in real life and did things they would never do in real life.

That’s when I figured out my problem with trying to write a story now. I was trying to be completely true to the entirety of my friends’ characters. I made them comparable ages, backgrounds, and gave them similar actions to perform. Not only did this take away from the story (most friends are friends because they get along and getting along does not make for a good story, a good story requires some kind of conflict) but it was actually distracting me from making the story fun. It’s not about capturing exactly what my friend would do in this exact situation, it’s about capturing the brief essence of who they are in the moment. My friends didn’t care about the deep, interpersonal thoughts of their character. They cared about the witty quip that’s “exactly what I would’ve said!” or the moment that’s actually so contrary to their character that it’s hilarious.

I was missing the forest looking at trees. I was missing the essence of my friend while trying to find the intimate detail. I plan on trying again soon to write a few more stories with my friends and I but I’m going to focus more on the essence of who they are.


Art Should Be About the ‘How’ not the ‘What’

Art Should Be About the ‘How’ not the ‘What’

I consider myself an artist. My canvas is the page, my paint is my words. I dabble in painting with actual paint as well and occasionally like to draw. I have friends who are incredible artists. From digital paintings to poetry, there are crazy talented people in this world who want to live off what they love to do.

Unfortunately, most people don’t want to pay them. At least, they don’t want to pay them what their work is worth. 

Good art takes time. Not just to make it but to learn how to make it. Paintings take years of training and perfecting individual style. Truly writing well takes time and energy then more time and energy to finish a 40,000 word book. People can spend their entire lifetime building the skills necessary to create something beautifully breathtaking. But when it comes time to sell it, to make the money necessary to survive and make more art, no one will buy it.

“$25 for a digital painting? I mean, the computer probably did a lot of that for you.”

“Why so much for a simple sketch on canvas? Can’t you use cheaper materials?”

“Isn’t that a lot for just a 200 page novel? It’s just one story.”

See, these things undervalue all the skill that is developed behind the scenes. You’re not paying for what a “computer did”, you’re paying for hours of intense and grueling work that the artist has put in over years of training. That sketch on canvas wouldn’t look nearly as good with cheap materials and why would you pay for someone to use subpar tools to make something you want to be proud of? And if it’s ‘just’ a story then why haven’t you written a novel yet? Oh yeah, because that’s actually a lot of work and it’s difficult.

Art is too expensive in that I, and many people I know, cannot afford to buy art that we really enjoy because the financial cost is too great. But it’s not expensive enough because, let’s face it, spending 46 hours on a painting and getting $150 for it isn’t even close to fair. Yet many people scoff at paying such an exorbitant price for something like that.

I think it comes down to living in a society where what matters most is the product. No one cares how it got there, just that it is there now. That’s why people hear about companies with sweatshops overseas and still buy product from those companies. Because we all don’t really care how it was made, it’s all about what we’re holding in our hands right now.

I guess if, as a whole, we could start caring about how the products are made and consider paying for ‘how’ and not ‘what’ then we could start moving past more than just underpaying artists.

The Name is Published. Self, Published.

The Name is Published. Self, Published.

The last few months I’ve been working on my new ebook, The Body in the Garage. It’s a small collection of flash fiction and poetry with a dark tone running throughout. Inside you’ll find five pieces of flash fiction (for my purposes, flash fiction is 2,000 words or less) and five poems. The topics of these short works range from serial killers to werewolves to vampires. All of them are rooted in the real world, magical realism being one of my favorite things to write, and hopefully they will each send shivers down your spine or at the very least, make you think.

I would love for you to buy my book right now! But I don’t want you to do it unless you’re interested in the subjects I mentioned before. It’s a dark book. The stories are short but they’re meant to pack a punch in as few words as possible. The poems are supposed to make you squirm. If that’s not your thing, then please feel free to pass. If this is your cup of tea then by all means! Please buy it and enjoy it!

This book is available on the following websites (I will be updating as it is fully distributed):

Google Play Store

2018 EDIT: Originally there were several other available retailers but they have since removed it (I don’t know why). Only Google has kept my ebook up! 

Or if you would like to search for it on another retailer’s site the ISBN# is 9781468973358

My purpose in doing this is to get my name out there, to get my work into people’s hands, and to make a little money. The book is only $2.99 so I’m not going to get insanely rich off this right away!

I love writing. I want to do it for a living. This is my second shot at an ebook (I made about $7 over 5 years on the last one) and I want it to count. I want it to go somewhere. If you think of someone who would enjoy this book then please share it with them! Even if that means letting them read your copy instead of them buying their own, I don’t mind. Read. Share. Enjoy. That’s what I want for my work. I would love if you could leave me a review on the site most convenient for your purchase. Because I’m still working on getting a readership, reviews are crazy helpful! A good review can mean a lot to a stranger deciding whether to buy or not.

Basically, I’m writing this whole thing to ask for your help! An author is nothing without readers. I hope you love my book and get plenty of enjoyment out of it! And I hope you find someone to share it with!