Author Guest Post
How To Write Fiction Based On Real Life
I connected with a writing mentor when I decided to start writing novels. Once I decided on the story for my first book, which was inspired by working briefly on cruise ships, he said, “By all means get inspiration from real life, but then throw it away and write good fiction.” He went on to explain that real life, even if seemingly exciting and full of drama, doesn’t translate well to fiction. “Real life doesn’t follow a plot which will capture and keep a reader’s attention,” he said.
I was tempted to disagree, as my time on cruise ships saw plenty of drama which has entertained dinner party attendees for years… but I decided to believe the wise old man J and started planning the novel.
Over time, I realized he was right – but real life did sneak in here and there. I felt like it was helpful to have a novel based on a ship, because I had worked on a couple, and would be able to describe them with convincing detail. I also made my main character do a job which I had also done at one stage, again to lend realism to the details.
I planned the whole book with a detailed outline, including what would happen in each chapter – and this is where real life appears in the book. I picked a cast of characters. I thought rather than having just one main character, I would have more of an ensemble cast – while still narrated by the one main character in first person voice. Is it any surprise that my favorite TV show of all time is Sex and the City? haha.
So I decided that the main character, Ellie, would have two best friends. A flamboyant gay guy (Nick) and an insecure, promiscuous young woman (Caitlin). Then there should be a villain (Maria). My mentor, James, felt that the villain should be pure evil, with no redeeming features, but I disagreed. I felt that the main character would try to see the best in the villain, even if it didn’t change the fact that Maria is, in fact, rather awful.
Then each character had to have a goal, and subsequently, obstacles which get in the way of goals. “That’s where the real drama happens,” James said. So Ellie’s goal is career and self-esteem related. Nick’s goal is career related, and his obstacles are family related. Caitlin’s goal is partially career related (at least in her eyes it is), but in reality, her goals are relationship related due to mother/self-esteem issues. Therefore her major hurdles are relationship related. Maria’s goals are essentially money and power related. Then I had my characters and their emotional journeys.
This is where the real life snuck in. As I planned each obstacle or plot point, I’d think, “ooh, I remember that shocking thing which happened to my room-mate. I’ll throw that in,” or “Ah, I remember when I was lied to like that, I’ll use that example,”… so here and there, elements of my own experience were used – but overall, it’s still fiction. Someone asked me to name a percentage of the book which is real, and on the spur of the moment, I said “50%”, but honestly, who knows? I wasn’t counting.
It’s just a book, written by a person who was trying to make it entertaining, well structured, and would encourage readers to keep turning the pages. I hoped that people would giggle here and there, and perhaps old salty sea dogs would smirk at all the typical ship-board behavior they recognized!
Writing fiction based on real life has its pros and cons – the biggest con being to try and convince people that it’s not a thinly veiled autobiography! But then again, does it really matter? I just hope people enjoy it and recommend it to their friends. Oh, and that I don’t get sued by someone who thinks the awful character in the book is them. It’s not.
About The Author
Sex, Lies & Cruising by Cathryn Chapman
Publisher: Independent Self Publishing
Publication Date: July 16, 2015
Format: Paperback - 278 pages
Kindle - 2209 KB
Genre: Chick Lit / Romantic Comedy / Women's Fiction
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Disclaimer: I received a copy of the book from the author in exchange for my honest review and participation in a virtual book tour event hosted by Chick Lit Plus Blog Tours.
Exotic locations, sexy men, and crazy crew parties… Ellie has her dream job… or does she? When Ellie's fiancé cheats on her with a younger, slimmer, blonde from the office, she boots him out of her life and finds solace in a fabulous photography job aboard a Caribbean cruise ship. Twenty-four hours on board and she’s already shagged her sexy Texan colleague, who happens to love her muffin-top. Unfortunately he’s leaving in a week, and his ex-girlfriend, a hot-headed Brazilian with stripper moves right out of the 90s and a talent for stealing boyfriends, is still on board and out for revenge.
Ellie must work out how to deal with the loco ex, sort the lying scumbags from the good guys, and figure out how many crew members in a cabin it takes before officially becoming group sex. Who the hell knows? (It’s five, actually.) It’s a world completely unlike the one she left behind, but as she tries to find her place on board, Ellie discovers laughter and tears in equal measure. And in the midst of the craziness, she realises the greatest thing this lifestyle change has given her is the chance to rediscover herself.
My Book Review:
In her debut novel, Sex, Lies & Cruising, author Cathryn Chapman weaves a thoroughly entertaining and sassy tale that is sure to keep you in stitches.
Told in the first person narrative, Ellie leaves her ex-fiance in London and takes the reader on a madcap adventure when she embarks on a six month stint working as a photographer on a cruise ship in the Caribbean. Crew life on a cruise ship brings drama, romance, heartbreak, crazy new adventures, self-discovery and an unexpected life change.
The author uses her prior experience of working on a cruise ship to weave a hilarious tale that has the reader living vicariously through Ellie's journey, while wishing that they could be on that cruise ship. *wink, wink*
This is a fast paced and easy book to read, it easily kept me engaged and turning the pages. I absolutely loved Ellie, she is a sassy girl who is realistic and easy to relate to, you can't help but embrace her and cheer her on as her cruise ship journey allows her to rediscover herself, and make changes that will bring happiness in her life.
So come aboard and get a behind the scenes look at the cruise ship lifestyle from Ellie's eyes! From the inevitable cruise ship crew romantic hook-ups, to the crazy partying and drama of living together on a cruise ship, to the tantalizing exotic destination port locales, to Ellie's humorous daily trials and tribulations, Sex, Lies & Cruising is one heck of an entertaining chick lit / romantic comedy story that is a perfect summer beach read!
RATING: 5 STARS
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