Sunday, June 22, 2014

Sunday Musings: June 22 2014

This week's musings idea comes via Heather Greenis:

A real life event that inspired a novel or a scene in a novel.

Now we know we can't duplicate real life due to legal headaches, but we've all had experiences/conversations have these found their way into our writing.

What about the person who has bugged you, surely you've killed them off in a story once or twice   (an editor maybe )

Let's start musing!

Since this was my idea, here goes. 

A few years ago we experienced heavy wind and rain. Trees swayed, branches and large limbs broke. A tornado touched down nearby. Inspired, the following day, I recreated this scene in Natasha's Hope

Wellll, Albuquerque, New Mexico always suffers a terrible fate in several of my stories, published and unpublished. I once pursued and was briefly engaged to a woman. She put me off for a year because, though she was separated from her husband who was living back east, she still considered herself a married woman and couldn't have a relationship with anyone. Of course, as I discovered later, her going down to Albuquerque to do the mattress mumbo with a guy didn't count as a relationship. Our engagement kind of went downhill after that. So, to this day, yes, Albuquerque suffers greatly in my writings. (And to this day I still don't date nor do I consider the possibility of ever getting married again.)

The first book I ever wrote was inspired by a tragic fire in which a friend lost his wife and all four of his children. They were remodeling their house, and as I remember, the fire started from either a can of paint or something electrical. This haunted me, and shortly after I started writing fiction -- it was 2005 or so -- I wrote a 5000 word story about a little boy who loses his mother in a fire. I then spent the next year and a half or two years learning enough about writing fiction to make it publishable. It was accepted for publication, but due to various problems with the publisher, has yet to appear.

I've written many poems based on real-life events of various sorts, including stuff like when my spouse complained about some chicken soup {grin}, but the chapter book is the most outstanding example of fiction.

Small things, like my ex MIL complaining about my leaving the dishes drying in the dish drain, or the rental house where the kitchen contained nothing but take-out menus, or the Black soldier court martialled for going fifty yards off-base for a drink when the White guys with him got off with a simple reprimand or the time the plane ran out of fuel fifteen minutes before it was due to land -- those make it into my stories, too. Everything and anything can be fodder for the muse.

Real life?  In the sense of real world, a writer of s-f or fantasy has to know this one well in order to create fictional worlds.  Otherwise, the fiction just won't work.
Take volcanoes.  When I was writing FIRE PLANET, I had to know how an eruption operates, not just the scientific facts, but the real events that take place during specific eruptions, in order to bring the threat to life in the book.  A fire mountain can display in only so many different ways.  The drama, terror, and event sequence of some of those in our history inspired some of the events in the book.

History has certainly inspired many a setting or event in my other books.  They are, after all, about human beings facing major challenges, not about invincible cartoon characters..  We've done that since our cave-dwelling days.  This is particularly true in respect to acts of supreme heroism.  History is rich with examples of what members of our species can do when their backs are against the wall and everything of importance to them is riding on them.

Killing someone off?  Only two individuals, both in the same book.  I altered the names to avoid embarrassing the guilty and proceeded to remove them in a bloody fashion.  I stress that the two young characters in the book are totally innocent and undeserving of their fate.  The one editor whom I might have liked to "remove" in that manner is safe, since I don't write splatter.


CROSSED OUT was inspired by a personal tragedy in my family.  My book is dedicated to my sister Colette who was murdered by her ex.  I had a personal experience that had me call my bishop at that time and asking him what if those who had been killed before their time might be ‘lost’ and confused?  Then my husband asked me to go a step further.  What if it was the job of someone to make talismans-crosses- and decorate them with the essence of that person in order to help them on their way to their vision of heaven?  **I do have a Muslim crossing too which Stephanie finds out not all use crosses as symbols of their faiths.  I felt it was important to include that scene(even when some told me to drop it) as I have a Muslim brother-in-law and two Muslim nephews.

EARRINGS OF IXTUMEA was inspired by two things: my experience as a bilingual teacher in a LA county school.  On the first day of school I had my first graders illustrate draw pictures of themselves.  Almost always I had them coloring themselves blonde, blue-eyed and fair skin.  This troubled me.  At the time Brazilian Pop star Xuxa was popular.  Also Britney Spears.  Which lead to my second reason: I was troubled by something about my great-grandmother Cipriana.  It appeared as if her name had been changed on some records.  I remembered my one aunt telling me that she was Mexican but the family was upset and said no, she was in fact adopted by a Mexican couple.  This lead me to SHHAR-Society of Historical Hispanic Ancestral Research and Mimi Lozano(the one who fought to have the law case Mendez vs. Westminster recognized which gave Latinos the right to place their children in nearby ‘white’ schools.  This happened here in Southern Ca in 1947 before the landmark Brown vs. Board of Education).  She lead me on a journey which showed me that my great-grandmother’s family were migrant workers from a village outside of Sonora, Mexico.  I also was in the bilingual/bicultural education masters program at CSUFullerton and took a Chicano Studies class.  Professor Ortega helped me understand a little more the whys of covering up your heritage.

I’m also a huge follower of #WeNeedDiverseBooks on Twitter and have also contributed to a number of blogs that support diversity.

My current project also has a Latina protagonist and her world is based on my own experiences with my faith and some records of my Mormon great-great grandfather who was a polygamist during the early time of the church.  It deals with struggles with faith and stepping outside of it.

DAWN KNOX, author

A few years ago, the churchwarden at my church was contacted by someone who had been out walking his dog in the churchyard and then in the meadow further down the hill. His dog dived through a bush and disappeared and when he followed, he discovered an old well, in which were some dirty items. After cleaning them up, he was surprised to find what looked like two gold candlesticks and a vase. They turned out to be brass but he was right to have contacted the churchwarden as they had been stolen from the church many years before. It was thought that the thieves assumed the haul was gold and then when they discovered otherwise, they threw the pieces away and they'd remained in the old well, undiscovered, for many years.

I've used elements of this story in 'Daffodil and the Thin Place' but in my story, I've changed the items to a precious, golden cross, which goes missing.

I base a lot of my characters off of people in real life. At least about how the characters look, because I find it hard to imagine a character's face from nothing to base it off of. So I usually snatch someone (metaphorically...) and use their face to base a character off of. I never take people who I know well though, because the best part is making up a personality for that character however I like. Sometimes it's weird to see the real version of the character in real life though, especially when they don't act the way they're "supposed to"! The main character in my book Aizai the Forgotten is based on someone I occasionally see around the neighbourhood, and I have to keep myself from laughing when I see him, or imagining him doing some magical thing. I sometimes wonder what people would think if I told them that they have secret fictional identities in my books.

Actually, my next novel coming out this fall, AFTER, (Originally titled WHEN MY LIFE CHANGED) is based on my own experiences with my husband’s heart attack and bypass surgery. I have actually lifted whole parts of the actual call and my hospital experiences for this book. I started this when my husband had his heart attack and surgery and was in the hospital. Unfortunately, I never finished it that year for NaNoWriMo. So the following year I picked it up and finished it. I didn’t have to do much research because I had already lived it. Also I put my own relatives in this, but I changed their names. Yes, I told them I did it. They were kind of honored that they were in my book.

For my first novel I used my daughter’s experiences and also used the environment in which we lived at the time she went to high school. I have used real life a lot for poetry too. One time I glimpsed someone in a movie theater and wrote about her on the way home. Sometimes a real life event will trigger a poem too.

On the whole, I think using real life experiences and events brings greater depth to your writing. Having lived it you bring your own emotions and opinions about it and though it can be difficult to convey that emotion, when you do get it right the scenes can be very compelling.


Not sure how far off base this is but here's my note.

I read once that we all put a little of ourselves in every character we write. Be it the good guy or the bad guy. Hero or heroin. I know I do this, though I didn't notice until I read this little snipit. Then there's the whole life experince thing - you can't write unless you've lived. Perhaps drawing on life you've lived is important, the sounds, the smells, and most importantly the people you've met. In order to really fill a story, some say such as Hemmingway, you need to be there in order to put your reader there. hmmm, food for thought. peace.

Dear reader, thank you again for joining us and we’d love to hear from you. Keep smiling and have a fun week. Never stop believing. See you next Sunday…nothing better than being cozy in bed with some Musings.

If you have a question or comment you’d like us to muse upon, do not hesitate to contact me Christine Steeves-Speakman  at

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