Turning Friends Into Villains: a Writer’s Right

My short story “Turn a Blind Eye” will be published by AM Ink Publishing in their upcoming horror collection The Half That You See. The book takes its name from a quote attributed to Edgar Allen Poe: Believe nothing you hear and only one half that you see. Have you ever been misquoted? So was Poe, quite often.*

Most of my stories contain a grain of truth, and this one’s no different. Inspired by a friend, I loved the premise so much, I’ve re-written it several times over a five-year period (each rejection spawned a revision). Is it a compliment to inspire a horror story? I think so. Can I tell you which part’s true? Or who inspired it? Haha…How to make people hate you: put them into a story and give them unattractive qualities.

I have another friend who gets very, VERY sad when the weather isn’t nice. She lives in Cleveland, poor girl. She is vibrant and beautiful and sassy. And she’s a foot taller than me. I try never to stand next to her in pictures. I preemptively asked her if she’d mind being the inspiration for a villain who goes off the deep end when the weather turns sour. I asked her because I was pretty sure she’d be cool with it. If you’re a friend and I haven’t asked you, you’re probably so altered, even you can’t recognize yourself.

There are downsides to being a writer: the (often absent) pay, the (ever-present) rejection, and the no one taking you seriously. BUT. Stay with me. Taking real people, friends even, and alternating them at the atomic level: sounds like absolute power… or just a writer soothing herself.

Another upside to being a writer is when—yay! a little money. My dear friend Mary sent me a congratulations email with this quote from Virginia Woolf (about her first writing paycheck):

You have only got to figure to yourselves a girl in a bedroom with a pen in her hand. She had only to move that pen from left to right–from ten o’clock to one. Then it occurred to her to do what is simple and cheap enough after all–to slip a few of those pages into an envelope, fix a penny stamp in the corner, and drop the envelope into the red box at the corner. It was thus that I became a journalist; and my effort was rewarded on the first day of the following month–a very glorious day it was for me–by a letter from an editor containing a cheque for one pound ten shillings and sixpence. But to show you how little I deserve to be called a professional woman, how little I know of the struggles and difficulties of such lives, I have to admit that instead of spending that sum upon bread and butter, rent, shoes and stockings, or butcher’s bills, I went out and bought a cat–a beautiful cat, a Persian cat.

Woolf took her first check and bought a cat. All the great writers seem to have cats. I think my catlessness is holding me back. As soon as my youngest (who’s allergic) goes off to college…bam! Cat. I used to have a cat. He broke my heart by dying.

An old pic of the best cat ever (and weirdest bird).

*Here’s a list of other quotes attributed to Edgar Allan Poe. The writer asked which was my favorite. They’re all worth the read. My favorite was #3, which is a lyric from a (Poeishly disturbing) song written by a woman named Poe.

10 thoughts on “Turning Friends Into Villains: a Writer’s Right

  1. Anonymous

    ..or you could kill your friend like you did at the beginning of your novel. 😉 “Turn a Blind Eye”is one of your best short stories and the protagonist is more unlike your inspirational friend than like him. Guess it’s good to be killed or made into a villain. BTW, hard to believe but you’re even prettier now.

  2. Congratulations on being published! Your writing always inspires me. 🙂
    That’s it! Catlessness must be holding me back, too. I so miss owning a cat. But my allergy has increased to where I either breath or own one. I choose life.

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