READER FRIDAY: Share How You’ve Used Family & Friends for a Book Plot

After Sue Coletta’s post “When Real Life Collides with Fiction,” I wondered how many other TKZ members have stories about the many ways an author can abuse family and friends for the sake of a book. I’ve heard of wild stories at writer conferences where authors talk about staging a crime scene using friends as attackers & victims or cornering a relative to brainstorm a murder over Thanksgiving pumpkin pie.

In what ways have you used the people in your life for research or to develop a book plot?

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About Jordan Dane

Bestselling, critically-acclaimed author Jordan Dane’s gritty thrillers are ripped from the headlines with vivid settings, intrigue, and dark humor. Publishers Weekly compared her intense novels to Lisa Jackson, Lisa Gardner, and Tami Hoag, naming her debut novel NO ONE HEARD HER SCREAM as Best Books of 2008. She is the author of young-adult novels written for Harlequin Teen, the Sweet Justice thriller series for HarperCollins., and the Ryker Townsend FBI psychic profiler series, Mercer's War vigilante novellas, and the upcoming Trinity LeDoux bounty hunter novels set in New Orleans. Jordan shares her Texas residence with two lucky rescue dogs. To keep up with new releases & exclusive giveaways, click HERE

22 thoughts on “READER FRIDAY: Share How You’ve Used Family & Friends for a Book Plot

  1. Several relatives have made dandy villains. Although they were never punished for their abuse in real life, boy, are they receiving justice in my novels.

    Fictional revenge is sweet and not subject to criminal prosecution.

    • You know it, sister. I’ve written my fav/crazy aunts & uncle’s into my novels & given them lines. A crazy uncle became a vice detective looking,for hookers. A nephew became a state trooper who loves burgers & smelled of fries.

      Even my own parents became undercover agents in one book. Those passages make me laugh aloud. When I read it to my older brother, I could hardly get it out, crying.

      To this day, my mom tells everyone that she’s in my book as a spy who can fly a helicopter, run facial recognition & serve ginger snaps wearing pearls.

      You gotta entertain yourself as a writer.

  2. Let’s just say my husband sleeps with one eye open now. In my defense, I’ve never actually done him any harm, but the brainstorming out loud and asking questions like what would happen if… have caused him to wonder who he’s really sleeping with at night.

  3. I used a particularly flirtatious, rather irritating former work colleague as the model for a woman in my first novel, and it was a lot of fun. But I don’t often use people I know very well.

    Years ago my mother-in-law commented to my husband that she was surprised he never put her in his work. Later he and I laughed over the fact that the mothers in several of his short stories was quite clearly her! Funny how people don’t recognize fictional versions of themselves.

    • *snort*
      I’d forgotten your hubs is a writer too. I bet that’s truly interesting. You might need to write a post on it. PLEASE!!

  4. I’ve used bits and pieces of friends and relatives in various stories. One of my WIPs features my oldest niece. When she heard I was starting a new novel she asked if she could be a character in it — and could she please be kick-**s? It tickled me that she asked, and gave me a delightful new direction for that novel.

    In another WIP, I based the main character on my best friend who passed away five years ago. She once asked if I ever considered writing a story about a psychic. Of course I had. And now I know what that story is.

    • FUN & sweet. Memorializing people who’ve touched you is truly special. I recently wrote a fuller scene & gave a waitress a bigger & more sympathetic part after I learned that a friend & restaurant owner had lost her lifelong battle with cancer. She often waited on us & became a dear friend until we moved away. Now she’s forever in my pages. Thanks for the memory.

  5. I’ve never used anyone in my real life in my published fiction, but a very good friend was very upset with me because I didn’t base an extravagantly flamboyant psychic in TIME AFTER TIME on her. She was so sure I had. I told her I’d recommend her for the role if they ever made a movie of the book, and that appeased her.

    • Ha! Good one.

      I’ve held 2 contests for my YA books to name a character after anyone winners submitted. Winners were asked to give me a dozen traits that might help me create the characters. Both winners elected to use their names & their list of traits REALLY HELPED form some fun characters. These weren’t minor bit parts. One was a heroine & another was a villain. Their traits elevated their importance to the plot.

      It turned out to be a fun exercise for me. It really helped. Thanks, Marilynn. Have a good weekend.

  6. I have been lucky enough to have some of my stories end up on the pages of a few Elaine Viets books. I did forget to tell my mother that my wife and I are murder suspects in one book. Ooops. Big Al, the Pizza Dude in Fire and Ashes is the closest to me in real life.

    My daughters have told people Aunt Elaine kills people for a living. Their tastes in music have ended up on the pages as well.

  7. Years ago, I attended a team meeting at the software company where I worked. A software engineer from our team had a shouting match with an engineer from another team. They both rattled off reams of code from memory and argued over the use of where spin locks had been placed in it. They were clearly both geniuses. The rest of us in attendance understand about one word in 12. The outsider had a brilliant solution for a problem that had vexed our team for months, and he gloated about how he’d solved the issue over the previous weekend with very little effort. His counterpart was spitting mad. I’ve never witnessed another real-life encounter that so perfectly set up a murder mystery. I’ve wanted to use it ever since.


  8. Characters usually blend lots of friends, family, and people who I itch to get back at. I did name one character, the protagonist of my Mapleton series, after one of the UPSP clerks at the branch I frequented mailing manuscripts out. He wanted to be a detective, but I asked if he’d mind being Chief of Police instead. He agreed.
    The Hubster is great for bouncing ideas. You should have seen his eyes light up when I asked for an unusual way to poison (NOT KILL!) a cat. OK, I did say kill to him, but made sure the cats recovered.

  9. I’m loving this thread! A while ago I wrote (and had published) a short story which featured a main character who was based very much on my late father. When it was published I bought each of my five siblings a copy of the magazine. They all enjoyed it apart from my oldest brother. “Did you get paid for this?” he asked and when I said yes, sniffed and muttered “Talk about money for old rope.”
    Guess who ended up as the victim in my next murder story?

  10. My current WIP involves a young woman who lost her friends to a terrible accident caused by a drunk driver. The story actually happened over 22 years ago in a neighboring town and the girl who survived (because she wasn’t out with them that night) is the niece of my coworker. In the WIP, the woman has survivor’s guilt and feels unworthy of her life so she becomes a workaholic. When she returns home for a memorial ten years later, she gets involved with an investigation (she’s now in forensics) when a classmate is found dead in the nearby creek and foul play is suspected. That’s the second connection to someone I’m acquainted with–local man I went to school with was missing for a few days and found dead in the nearby creek. I find more and more instances of real life infiltrating my stories. As tragic as those two events were, they’ve made for interesting storytelling.

    • Most readers don’t realize how many details tie to our lives as authors. We filter a great deal through our experiences, whether it happened to us or was something we’ve read or heard about. Our minds are fertile ground for stories. Thanks, Kelly.

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