Many of the people in the lives of us fiction writers would make excellent characters in our stories. The thing is, inserting real people into our novels can be tricky.
First, they might recognize themselves and not like how we see them. Second, there’s the whole invasion of privacy issue. Third, alienating our whole families and all our friends isn’t too good for book sales.
DON’T WORRY, I HAVE A SOLUTION — CHARACTER TRADING CARDS!
Character Trading Cards would work like Baseball Trading Cards. Each card would include the character’s photo, a carefully chosen alias, physical and personality traits, and accomplishments or lack thereof. If one author had a character another author needed, they’d make a trade. My readers wouldn’t know your characters and your readers wouldn’t know mine. Pretty smart, huh?
For example, I may need a bombastic, Bible Belt-preacher, one who throws amens and halleluiahs around as much as he does drops of sweat. However, what I have is a PhD pastor, cautious and well-read (never fiction), a shepherd who doesn’t yell but watches over his flock with an eagle eye. I trade you my conservative Evangelical FOR your wild Pentecostal, and no one suspects a thing.
And for group trading, authors can hold meet-ups or conference calls. The negotiating might go something like this …
CLARICE: “I’m lookin’ to trade a loud-talker with a bone to pick for a close-talker, bad breath optional.”
JEREMIAH: “I don’t have a close-talker, but I have a soft-talker who gossips.”
DAVID: “Hey, I’ll take your soft-talker in exchange for my non-stop talker/traffic cone enthusiast.”
JEREMIAH: “I can do that.”
CLARICE: “Anyone have a fast-talker with hammer toes?”
DAVID: “No, but I’ve got one who mumbles and has bloodshot eyes.”
CLARICE: “I’ve been looking for a mumbler. I can always put sunglasses on him. “
DAVID: “Changing the subject, I’ve got an accountant on special this week.”
CLARICE: “What’s so special about an accountant?”
JEREMIAH: “I’ll trade you one apprentice carpenter for that accountant.”
DAVID: “Not this accountant, you won’t. My guy has social skills and a sense of humor.”
JEREMIAH: “A bean counter with a sense of humor? If you tell me he has a tan, I’ll know you’re lyin’. Tell you what, I’ll throw in a proctologist and a hockey player.”
CLARICE: “I can beat that. I’ll up you one church elder and make that hockey player Canadian.”
MORE POSSIBLE TRADES
Would you take one spoiled brat with delusions of entitlement FOR one former military man with his WWII uniform festooned with medals? … Maybe I could swap you one retired teacher, still re-gifting a closet full of cheap, apple-themed gifts from her former students, FOR one thoughtful person with a creative mind and a generous heart.
I’ll give you my lovers of people FOR all your haters (who, by the way, would come to an early demise in my stories). … I could trade you three women who’ve never had children but know everything about raising them FOR one mother who puts reading to her kids ahead of folding laundry. … And, how about I take one of your family felons FOR one of my ancestral heroes?
Wanna trade one naïve woman who finds the good in everyone FOR a big fat judgmental complainer? (Yeah, I know I could probably use myself here, but God’s working on me, and I don’t want to interrupt him.)
Finally, I’d be glad to shed three believers looking for biblical loopholes and cheap grace FOR one humble follower of Jesus.
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. ~ Ephesians 2:8-9 (NIV)