Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Back from several expeditions

Blechta once again at the controls.

I know this is going to date me pretty accurately, but I just attended my 40th anniversary high school reunion. Also part of that event was a musical tribute/fundraiser for classmate and great guitarist, Art Betker, who passed away last January after a battle with stomach cancer.

While the reunion was great, the concert was greater still (and attended by many of the same people). Several of the bands Art had played with over the years showed up, and the resulting 5-hour Rock/R&B/Jazz concert was really extraordinary. I was in charge of the final act, a 15-piece R&B band made up of some of the best musicians it’s been my pleasure to hear and interact with. Our set was comprised of arrangements of classic soul tunes Art really loved. To hear a 9-horn line rip into “Soul Man” or “Knock on Wood” in a small club can be rather overwhelming (Charles, you should have been there!), as much for the musicians as the audience. Even a week later, I’m still buzzing. All the hours spent on the song arrangements was certainly worthwhile — although I still regret we didn't have time to do “Cold Sweat”.

What does all this have to do with writing? Just this. In my more puckish moments, I have used old friends as major components in some of my books’ minor characters. They're always the sympathetic ones and almost all of "my subject" have read the books in which they appear. To date, not of them has recognized themselves — but others who know them have. I even pointed out to an old chum where he was in the book and that the character was “sort of” him. “I can’t see that at all,” he persisted, to which everyone listening (who had also read the book) said, “That person is so you!”

Okay, confession time everyone. I know you’ve all cribbed more from friends and acquaintances than you’ll admit to. Have they recognized themselves? And what has been the outcome?


The brass end of the horn line. And yes, that is a French horn, a first for this sort of music, I'm very sure.


Vicki Delany said...

Lucky Smith in the Constable Molly SMith series is a composite of a lot of women I know. And yes, they recognize themselves. But that's probably the only character based on real people. I use my friends' names liberally for minor characters. But always with permission, and I always fudge them somehow. eg in the forthcoming Gold Fever there is a character named Tom Jannis. I just happen to have a friend named Jan Toms.

Debby (Deborah Turrell) Atkinson said...

No one has ever admitted to recognizing himself/herself in my books. I've even tried to model characters off real-life bottom feeders, but they had the nerve to evolve into new people. And then they died.

John Corrigan said...

I name characters after friends, too. It's become something of a badge of honor among them (although they whine when something bad happens to their fictional namesakes). As an aside, I skipped my 20th high school reunion this summer. You have me wishing I'd have attended.

Donis Casey said...

If it weren't for real people, I wouldn't have any characters at all. And it's true that if I don't tell them, they never recognize themselves. Sometimes they don't recognize themselves even if I do tell them!