Writing as Real Life

Someone asked me if I was married, the other day… if I have kids… the usual small talk from someone I’d just met. She showed me pictures of her husband, her kid (he was pretending to be a Box Troll. I still haven’t looked up Box Trolls.) And I told her that I’m not much of anything. Not married. No kids.

Maybe someday? she prodded, optimistically.

I nodded. Maybe someday.

Truth be told, I was always more the loaner children type. Something about the idea that I can send them home appeals to me. Lots of fun, and very little commitment.

I could do marriage. In fact, there are times I’ve barely escaped with my life. **ahem** Thought about it.

And then, after you get through the small talk, there’s the real me. I’m writing a book. No, it’s not my first book. It’s…what? About two years old, now.

This was the kind of conversation that reminds me how close to the surface I really am. Not a lot of small talk, here. Other people–sometimes it seems like their whole lives are small talk. They’re perfectly willing to tell a complete stranger about their kids, or their remodeling job, or the husband who refuses to smile right in pictures.

Maybe it’s something off the introvert/extrovert scale.

Maybe it’s just that writing a book is so far off the beaten path that it almost takes another writer to hold up the other end of the chat.

There’s a lot of insecurity in that silence. I find myself comparing my art–my writing, my painting, my dance–to their lives. Their very real, real lives, with the spouse and kids, and the Box Trolls on TV, and feeling… inadequate.

I have a lot to show for my work. Honestly, I do. And objectively, I know that.

But I don’t want to show it to every coworker I can find. And the ideas of not having anything I’m willing to show them and not having anything at all get mixed up, sometimes. Goodbye confidence. Hello, what ifs.

What if I should have gotten married, had kids, raised radishes on the terrace? What if my projects never add up to anything, and I never have anything to show the coworkers or the family? What if… what if… what if…

Writing With a Sense of (Some Other) Place

In the first draft of my first trunk novel, the story was set in a small town that exists in real life.  My characters lived in a house that belongs to one of my family members, and got ice cream at the very same cafe that used to make the best root beer freezes in the entire world. My villain took several people hostage in a very weakly disguised version of a business where I worked for a couple of months, once upon a time.

Oh. And, of course, my villain was a serial killer running rampant through streets and businesses that really exist, and which would probably prefer not to be associated with mass homicide.

This is interesting. It’s a small town. Fading. I don’t remember it’s glory days, and frankly, it isn’t getting the best of the current economy. Or the one before. Or… well, any economy in recent memory. I keep hearing revitalization, but I’m just not seeing any.

A cadavers and carnage museum might be just the thing to pull people off the main road and into the local businesses. If my stories were very popular, it could be the Mitford of Mayhem. They could give tours, and maybe have a parade.

Ultimately, common sense kicked in. I fictionalized the crap out of that town, and moved it across the border into Iowa. Iowa appreciates a good bloodbath. Unlike some places.

Do you write about recognizable, real places? Or do you change them, so people won’t know? What made you make that choice?