By Tim Smith
I have a confession to make: some of my stories were inspired by personal experiences.
I’m sure you’re as shocked to hear that as I was to admit it. Writers hide behind the disclaimer “this is a work of fiction and any resemblance to actual people and events is unintentional.” While that’s true in my case, I must concede that many of my characters are composites of people I’ve met. They’re not exact clones, but I’ll take a physical trait from one, a vocal characteristic or speech pattern from another, an interesting quirk or habit from someone else, and presto—I’ve created a character.
The same is true for many of my plots and situations. Something may happen and I’ll play the “what if” game. I’m reminded of a story about the creation of the classic ‘60s sitcom “Get Smart.” When Mel Brooks and Buck Henry pitched the idea, they said “What if James Bond and Inspector Clouseau had a child?” Thus was born bumbling secret agent Maxwell Smart.
One of my holiday romances, “Mistletoe and Palm Trees,” was inspired by something that happened to me. I had planned a trip to Siesta Key, Florida to do a few book signing appearances and spend a week on the beach. At the last minute, my traveling companion was unable to go, and I took the trip alone. I thought “What if a guy ended up in the Florida Keys alone during the Christmas holidays because his girlfriend broke up with him and he met a woman in a similar situation?”
Another romance, “Who Gets the Friends?” resulted from something that happened during the break-up of my marriage several years earlier. I discovered that once we split, some of the so-called friends we had didn’t want to associate with me any longer. I had to start all over, not only with my life but in making some new friends. This was the plot for my story.
Many of my spy thrillers and private eye mysteries may not reflect actual exploits of mine, since I’ve never held either occupation, but some of the situations in those stories incorporate real events. My latest release, “The Other Woman” (Vic Fallon Book Four) is an example. At the beginning of the story, Fallon runs into a politician from his hometown while on a layover in an airport, and the man is murdered shortly after they speak. In my own case, I once had a long layover in Atlanta while flying home from the Florida Keys. I saw our state’s Attorney General at a departure gate and we spoke for a few minutes. He wasn’t killed afterward, but again I played the “what if” game.
The Nick Seven spy thriller “Catch and Release” is another example. I was having lunch at a restaurant that had waterfront dining. Many boats were docked nearby, including a yacht. Servers from the restaurant took food to the yacht for four people, but I only saw three. One of the trays was taken into the cabin where the curtains were closed. “Hmm,” my devious mind thought. “Who’s inside? Is it someone who doesn’t want to be seen? Possibly a celebrity, or a criminal in hiding?” That jumpstarted the story and my imagination took over from there.
I’m always amused when someone says “I’d better not wind up as a character in your next book.” I just smile and remain silent.