Sunday, 5 September 2010

Apparently There is Nothing That Cannot Happen Today...

Enzio Rinaldo stopped at the door and thrust his hand to Salvatore, “It’s been a pleasure, Giancomo.”

The snarl on the capo’s lips, the fury that flashed in the deep-set eyes, sent prickly heat to the back of Salvatore’s neck. Hesitant, knowing the man rooted for trouble, he met Rinaldo’s gaze and took the proffered hand.

The meaty claw slowly tightened around Salvatore’s hand in a vice-like grip, so tight that Rinaldo’s hairy knuckles turned white.

“That really hurts.” Salvatore smiled through gritted teeth.

The pressure of Rinaldo’s grip increased until the skin on Salvatore’s hand twisted and burned like a million bee stingers.

“There’s really no need for you to do this.” Salvatore maintained a calm tone although his internal pressure cooker had begun to hiss. “You’re the stronger man, obviously.” How that lie struggled to keep from coming to his lips. How difficult to restrain himself while DiPaolo studied them, sized them up like a cool Nero. “You don’t have to keep on.”

“Rinaldo.” DiPaolo finally broke his curious stare. With a sigh, he rolled his eyes and tugged the elegant dove gray coat about his slender shoulders. “Stop.”

Rinaldo tossed a sideways glance at his boss, but ignored the command. His eyes—teeming with unbridled hatred—remained fixed on Salvatore’s.

“I’m going to ask you one more time. Enzio,” Salvatore whispered.

When the clasp didn’t slacken, Salvatore took a deep breath, bored, resigned. With the speed of an adept magician, he formed a fist with his left hand and brought the knuckle of his middle finger down onto the straining muscles on top of the capo’s hand. As Rinaldo cried out in agony and sank to his knees, Salvatore grasped his fingers and bent them back with such strength the poor man crumpled, prone at his feet, moaning, grimacing.

Grinning, still clenching Rinaldo's hand in an excruciating grip, Salvatore asked, “Do you want me to let go, you son of a bitch?”
Rinaldo, his forehead pressed to the rose-and-ivy carpet, whimpered, “Please."

Salvatore released his hold, grabbed Rinaldo’s wrist and pulled him to his feet. He lent him a gentle smile and lightly brushed the lapels of the man’s coat and cooed, “Tsk, tsk. You’ve mussed your clothes.”

The above scene—very early in my writing and very rough, mind you—was…well…it was stolen. Yes, I stole it.

No, I didn't steal the words from another writer. I 'borrwed' them from a friend.

My buddy, Jay, and I hang out often on weekends in what we call Green Apple Summit Meetings. The name for these meetings came from the film, Stranger than Fiction, where a best-selling author, played by Emma Thompson, breaks a long spell of writers’ block by simply seeing a green apple roll across the street and stop against the curb at her feet.

During one of our frequent GAS meetings, Jay recounted to me a story of how he had been bullied by a fellow at a bar. He told me how he politely tried to avoid a fight as the man—exactly as depicted in the scene above, almost word for word—tried to engage him in a juvenile bout of hand wrestling. A battle for supremacy over some misunderstanding. Jay didn’t want to fight and remained calm, forfeiting his own pride for the sake of peace. That didn’t suit the drunk contender. So, when the pain became too intense to bear, Jay let loose and brought the challenger to his knees, then calmly walked away.

I listened, mesmerized, to Jay’s story. I was intrigued by his calm, quiet handling of the situation, and by his surprising strength which ultimately sent the bully crumpling at his feet. And my writer’s mind immediately incorporated this incident into my WIP. With his blessing, Jay’s scuffle with the bully became one of my favorite scenes in my story.

No matter how severe my own writer's block might be, I can sit with Jay, listen to him, and without fail will hear something--a word, anything--that will trigger a thought to clear my writing bottleneck.

I LOVE infusing real-life situations—whether they’re my own or told to me by friends—into my work. My friend Jay has lent many scenarios, words and phrases to my writing cause. He was formerly a truck driver, has been everywhere imaginable, has encountered countless colorful episodes like the one I ‘copied’ for my story. In fact, Jay shows up a lot in all my work.

And hardly a day goes by at work that I don’t overhear something interesting, something that grips me, something that ends up in my work. It just so happens that the Hispanic fellows at my job are all, in one way or another—whether it’s bits of tales they share or simply Spanish words they teach me—in my current contemporary work. They know this, too, and think it’s fun.

It happens sometimes at the grocery story, at Wal-Mart, at the park, just driving down the road. Somebody or something will cross my path and, before I know it, finds its way into a story. I love that.

Mark Twain said, "Apparently there is nothing that cannot happen today." Damn, I love that, too!

Life, every little morsel of it, is and adventure, or can be turned into one. And, half the time, as with the writer in Stranger than Fiction, you don’t even have to be looking for it.

How many of your real-life experiences show up in your writing? Do your friends pop up in your stories? Do you see interesting people on the street and, before you know it, find yourself weaving them into your work? Do you overhear interesting dialogue in your daily life, even while standing in the check-out line at the store, and transport it to your book?

I'd love to hear just how much of your everyday life is reflected in your writing. How many 'green apples' roll up to you and end up on your written page?


Lisa Alexander Griffin said...

C, I have to agree. Whether I want it to or not, things I've experienced, problems I heard from friends who have bent my ear, all come up in my stories. It's life, and what makes our characters realistic.

Funny thing is...I've had writers block lately, but had no trouble tonight, pouring my heart out within a thirty minutes period in a word doc with close to 2000 words. lol.

C. Zampa said...

Thanks, Lisa! I agree. It IS real life that makes our charcters real.

And WTG about the wordage on your WIP! That's wonderful!

Lisa Alexander-Griffin said... wasn't a WIP. I was venting to myself. :) I wish it was.

C. Zampa said...

LOL! Then...well...use it for a story! LOL!

Lisa Alexander Griffin said...

It wouldn't sell. lol.

Unknown said...

My experiences work their way into my stories, but not so much people I know, at least not consciously. Besides, there's one thing I have from all those years of staying alive so long -- stories. I gotta be able to do something with it, right?

C. Zampa said...

Thanks, Pat!

You're right--you gotta do something with them! And, being a fan of yours, I'm glad that writing them IS what you do with them!

Lex Valentine said...

What we see, hear, taste, touch, and know are all food for the writer. Only a foolish writer would ignore the world around them when creating characters, scenes, dialog and worlds. Of course these bits of your life make their way to your writing both consciously and sub-consciously. There are bits of me in characters, bits of my friends, acquaintances, family members. Sometimes it's obvious as in Karl with K who is my friend Karl Erikson from Sometimes it's not so obvious as in the cock first walk of Sin Carstens in Rock My World whose walk was taken from my ex, Paul Diaz. Writers are told to write what they know. To me, that means using what you know to craft your world and the people who inhabit it, and their actions and speech. So, yeah. There's lots of my life in my books. But I don't think even the people who know me best could pick out some of less obvious things.

C. Zampa said...

Thanks, Lex!

I like that...'food' for the writer. It IS indeed!

Unknown said...

Some of my characters are so not like me even I wonder where they come from. Take Jason in the Geography series. He's a total submissive, loves nothing more than to have Spider get jealous and tell him he belongs only to him. The one and only time a guy said that to me I was out the door so fast his Neanderthal mind was spinning. Nobody says the word 'own' around me. I've also written a few characters who are borderline illiterate and very intolerant. There have also been characters who don't like animals. There aren't many animals I don't like. So I try to see into the minds of people I'm nothing like. LOL.

C. Zampa said...

Hey, Pat, I don't suppose I'd have very interesting characters if they were very much like me! LOL. I'm grateful there are so many more interesting people out there than me!

And it IS an experience to try to get into heads of those who are not like ourselves.

Victor J. Banis said...

It's the writer's "disease." The real writer never stops writing, though he may not be at the keyboard, he's gathering fodder. Can't not do it. When someone tells me they're doing this, I know they are the real thing. Even if that person's writing is crude and amateurish (I'm not saying yours is, C., haven't read anything to know) I know he/she will make it eventually. The rest is just learning, but you can't learn to do this, it's either in your nature or it isn't.

joylene said...

Great post! I have to go to town or I'd comply. But honestly, the answer isn't that exciting. Thankfully my literary world is much more exciting than my real life. LOL. I have an imagination that knows no bounds. Amen!

C. Zampa said...

Amen indeed to the imagination knowing no bounds, Joylene! And thank heavens for that! Because my imagination is also much more exciting than my real life!

Thank you for stopping by!

C. Zampa said...
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Sarah Ballance said...

Every moment of our lives is an experience that shapes our writing, but I don't think I've had any specific moments find their way into my stories. I have, however, had the opposite problem and it's unsettling to say the least: two manuscripts and two VERY unlikely situations popping out of them into real life. (See if I ever write about a pregnancy again, LOL).

C. Zampa said...

Thanks for visiting, Victor!

Yes, it is our nature to constantly be gatehring fodder. You're right. We can't NOT do it.

C. Zampa said...

Thanks for visiting, Sarah!

So, if you write and things from your works come to life, could you perhaps write a story about me winning the lottery? LOL.

Unknown said...

I think much of what I observe eventually makes its way into my work. Some stories are very much a reflection of my personal emotional journies, and while the situations might not be the experience I had, the emotional impact finds it's way to the page.

C. Zampa said...

Thank you for visiting, Jaime!

You know, you're right. Sometimes, though the actual events themselves don't make it to the page, often the emotions do. Good point.

Regina Carlysle said...

Oh yeah, I think most of us do this. It could be something we've seen or heard of, a single word or phrase. I often used 'bits' of people I know or DID know in the past. I'll take those little bits and move them around a bit. I don't think we can help ourselves.

C. Zampa said...

Lucky for those like me, Regina, that you DO use bits of people you know--because there's likely going to be a bit of Texas in those characters and ideas. And I love that!

Thanks for visiting, lady!

F.L. Bicknell said...

First, this is one of the loveliest, sleekest style blogs I've seen in a while. Love the look here!

As for the post, I love it when I encounter people who can keep me spellbound with their life stories. I've been blessed to know several. And yes, true-life accounts are blended into my fiction. There is probably something from my life in 90% of all my work.

Wonderful post!

C. Zampa said...

Thank you for stopping by, Faith, and thank you for the compliment. I wish I could take credit for the beautiful blog, but owe that to the talented Em Ellis, who has a knack for knowing what suits writers personalities.

I enjoy those folks who keep me spellbound with their accounts, too.