Write “Who You Know” – Turning Real-Life Meanies into your Book’s Antagonists by Chloe Adler
Let’s welcome back monthly columnist Chloe Adler as she shares with us “Write “Who You Know” – Turning Real-Life Meanies into your Book’s Antagonists” Enjoy!
Something major happened to me recently. Life-changing major. I lost a parent by choice, not by death. There was a tremendous amount of drama leading up to the culmination, much like Act II leading up to the black moment in our novels. After the “incident” which took almost six months to play out, the obsessive thinking began. “They should never have… Why did they… I’m so upset about…” etc. Since this event coincided with the outlining of book 4 in my Distant Edge Series I couldn’t keep it from crossing into my thoughts. Before I knew it, a big part of the book’s drama revolved around my character’s issue with her parent. I added similar lines spoken by my family members because quite frankly – they sound crazy, I couldn’t make this $#it up and they make convincing characters.
Looking back on my first two novels, which are already written and will be published starting in May 2017 – I found that my antagonist was completely based on the family member attached to the parent I lost. The character uses modified phrases that this person has spoken to me. Her personality in my books mirrors that of the personality she has shown me for the past thirty years.
Why do this? First of all – sometimes it can’t be helped. Things that are going on in our subconscious come out in our writing. Secondly – it’s cathartic. It helps us make sense of events, personalities and confusion in our own worlds. Thirdly – and most importantly – it makes for great well-rounded antagonists or protagonists, depending on how people in our lives have treated us.
I received book 2 back from my editor yesterday and her comments elicited so much emotion I started to cry (with happiness). She found conflict and motivation within my protagonist that I didn’t even know I had written. This is where our true-life events come out. We can completely fictionalize them and keep the gist or we can use actual events and what people have said to us, changing their names of course.
Everyone’s heard “you write what you know”, which is true, but we also write “who we know”. Therefore I encourage you to turn all of those wrongs in your past into rights. If you can’t change what happened or the hurt someone has caused you, use it in your book. Turn those meanies into antagonists. Turn their insanity and self-righteous, thoughtless behavior into the conflict your protagonist must overcome.
Take the crazy words they have spoken to you, change them a little, and make it part of your antagonist’s dialogue. Not only will this make you feel so much better, it will lend authenticity to your characters. However, it is important for your antagonist to believe that what they are doing (their motivation) is right, no matter how heinous it is. Otherwise they’ll read like a cartoon villain. Think of this as a way to process while staying true to your art form. And, it’s probably best not to tell the people who have wronged you that you’ve made them into bad guys in your books. You don’t want to be sued for liable or defamation of character.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
For the past undisclosed amount of years, Chloe Adler has thoroughly bucked the system. She lives in foggy Northern California with her dead fish Larry and a bouncy bunny rabbit named Fred. After selling her rock collection she amassed enough money to buy and move into a small motor home where she developed a strange fondness for striped socks. Prior to her infamous writing career Chloe was an overachiever, amassing a slew of unimpressive letters after her name. The trouble is that the five people who know what the letters mean, don’t really care. When she’s not writing, she can be found picking trash up off the beaches, offering rides to the homeless and roasting her own coffee beans. Chloe is nearing completion of her first paranormal romance series, Distant Edge which is a genre mishmash guaranteed to rotate heads. If you sign up for her newsletter not only will you find out when they are released, you’ll also make her jump up and down with joy for at least 3.5 seconds. Wouldn’t that be nice?