Mark Twain once said, “Truth is stranger than fiction, but it is because fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities. Truth isn’t.” Like most people, I tend to remember things that strike me as funny or interesting. A few elements in my novel Chez Stinky are based on places that exist or real experiences I’ve had. Here are a couple of examples that were memorable enough make it into my novel.
In one scene, the main character Kat Stevens and her friend Maria are seeking “nightlife” in the small town of Alpine Grove. They don’t meet with much success. But they do meet a local lawyer named Larry, who explains the sign above one of the dive bars on the main street of town.
Maria, Larry, and Kat stood outside the bar, each silently evaluating whether or not to enter the establishment. Kat looked over at Larry. “Mystic Moon Soloan? Okay, I give. What’s a soloan?”
Larry shrugged. “It’s supposed to be saloon. The story goes that the guys who made the sign had a few too many beers and mixed up the letters. No one ever got around to fixing it. If you walk around to the other side, it’s spelled correctly there.”
Kat and Maria walked down the street past the door to look at the other side of the sign. Sure enough, Larry was right. Spelling obviously wasn’t a big priority in Alpine Grove.
The story of the Saloan is loosely based on a bar in the small town where I live called the Tam o’Shanter or “The Tervan.” The misspelling of “tavern” has been in place for decades, and now it’s part of the local lore.
Another scene that is based on reality appears at the beginning of the book. Kat is a technical writer, and she needs to discuss the details and deadlines of a major editing project she has just been given. Instead of answering her questions, her boss Mark evades the issue and says:
“I’ve been thinking about gingko lately. It’s an herb, you know. Do you think it makes me smarter? I’ve been taking it and I think I’m getting smarter. What do you think?”
“Well, Mark, I’m not sure. You seem the same to me. If you start getting dumber, should I let you know?”
This exchange similar to a real conversation I had. Many years ago, I was a technical writer and my boss asked me almost the same question when I had come into his office to talk about the raise he had promised me. It was not one of the high points of my writing career.
So if you’re wondering where authors get ideas, now you know. The answer is everywhere.