Every story comes from somewhere. No writer wakes up on a Tuesday and thinks “It’s time to write my next book. I’ll just roll my character dice and spin the plot wheel, then sit down at my laptop and boom! Bestseller.
Nope, not gonna happen that way. Something sparks an idea. The idea turns into a story kernel. Then the hard work begins. The development of goals, motivation, and conflict. Coming up with the big black moment, and the smaller setbacks along the way. Figuring out how this happily ever after is right for these characters.
It’s always a little awkward when friends have read my books. Recently someone started reading Swept Away, which was sparked by a real-life event. My husband and his brother went fishing a few years ago and they pulled someone out of the river who had been swept into the rushing water. The rest of the story is completely made up, but people still ask if my husband is “Carson or Cody?”
In all honestly, there’s a lot of my husband in all my heroes. But also a lot of me. And who I wish we could be.
When Hunter Pence was traded to the San Francisco Giants, I got the idea for Worth The Trade. And while I adore his enthusiasm and charisma, the character of Marco Santiago is a figment of my imagination. Besides, Hunter found his own romance heroine and I wish him and Lexi a lifetime of love.
A photo of pitcher Barry Zito caught my eye. He was standing against a backstop with his guitar leaning against the chain-link fence. I knew I had to write a guitar-playing pitcher for Making A Comeback. But Nathan Cooper made a mistake. A big one that could have cost him his career. I needed my character to have taken steroids, despite the fact that the player who inspired him didn’t.
And while I might have had shortstop Brandon Crawford in mind when I first introduced Bryce Baxter, his character didn’t marry his college sweetheart and have three of the cutest kids in the National League like the real player. And by the time I wrote Earning A Ring, Bryce had become his own person.
I’m working on a book featuring a female ballpark announcer. I’ll research Renel Brooks-Moon, but her story is her own, and I’ll only use pieces of her experiences to create my character. And I’ll toss in some backstory inspired by a firefighter I saw sleeping in the laundry room of a La Quinta Inn where I stayed on vacation with my family. None of what happens in the book happened in real life.
I also want to write a small town series, set in a town similar to McCloud, California. But I will make up the town, the people, and the conflicts. The mountain is real, as well as the beauty, but I may need businesses that don’t exist. I’ll need to stretch the truth to tell the story. But I let you know up front that it’s fiction. I may create a hotel or restaurant that looks like one I’ve been to in real life, but what I really want is for the reader to picture one they’ve been to. Maybe it’s been a while, or maybe it’s their own weekly hangout.
The same thing goes for names. I work at a school and it’s impossible for me to use names that aren’t shared by students, staff, or families.
Of course, as a romance writer, I will occasionally get the wink, wink, nudge, nudge “So the love scenes?” Yes they are based on real life experiences, and other books I’ve read, and movies, and fantasies, and pure imagination. If the reader is trying to figure out which part is which, then I didn’t do a very good job with those scenes.