One of the methods I use to get that sort of sweaty, pulse-pounding emotion that writer's hope to achieve when creating fiction, is to write about people in my life and create events which I pray to God never happen, or would never do myself because it would be so, so wrong. I perform an exercise where I work out plot details by pretending to do some of the bad things my characters are going to commit by placing myself in their shoes. In order to generate an authentic environment for myself, I take real people from my life and put them into situations with myself as the actor so I can achieve an understanding of how it may feel for my character to do the same thing.
If I have a character who wants to kill his best friend, I’ll boot up my computer and type out a scenario where my buddy Frank gets on my nerves and I will go nuts, grab a rifle and…you know. Of course, no one, not even my wife reads these texts as she would never understand what it is I am doing. It'd be a bit hard to explain that I really don’t have a crush on the woman I bring my dry cleaning to.
The girl at the dry cleaners is in her twenties, thin with a dancer's build, dark hair, single, and has at least one tattoo I noticed on the small of her back. Her skin seems to be permanently tanned, even in the winter, and she is always happy to see me. In truth, she's happy to see anybody. But, when I am working on characters, I imagine more. One of the stories I am crafting at this moment involves a police officer who is cheating on his wife with his partner's wife. There's a lot more to my new story than mere infidelity (as if that weren't enough) but I wanted to make sure I knew what is was to actually cheat on my wife without going out and having a bona-fide affair. That's where Leah, the dry cleaning "hot babe" comes in.
On paper (okay, in Microsoft Word) I drop off my dry cleaning one day and notice Leah bending over in front of me to write up the receipt. Her blouse is opened a bit more than usual and I can see an ample amount of cleavage. Her bra, black, with spaghetti-thin straps is also a tad loose and there is a nipple slip. There are no tan lines, and my eyes are fixed on her breasts. Leah looks up and notices that I was peeking. Looking away, I'm embarrassed. My face feels warm, and my mouth begins to spew out all kinds of nonsense about baseball, the weather...anything. Leah smiles, and bends over again. Now what do I do?
This simple, married, slightly over-weight, middle aged guy can take this many different directions. Does Leah want me to see more of her and less of her clothing somewhere more private? Or is Leah oblivious to the fact that she is exposed? What if I go in there again and we begin some sort of heavy flirting? All of this can be written out and lead to something that reads like a porno movie script, but, it is not the text that is the point. The objective is to vicariously experience cheating without actually doing it.
In real life, Leah would probably smack me if I looked down her shirt. I'd be a fool to believe that I had any sort of a chance with someone like her, and I'd never flirt with any woman while my wife was still living. Nevertheless, this sort of exercise can be used to imagine murder, betrayal, abuse of different kinds (No, I am not a good father after all, you rotten kids) and the key is that I involve real people whom I know so that I can relate to what happens on a very personal level. This becomes the grist for my writing which contains even more emotion because I can readily imagine what the characters are going through.
Leah will not show up as a character in this story. Still, I used her because she is forbidden not only because I'm married, but because she is twenty years younger than me and she is way out of my league looks-wise. This example with Leah is more than just a mere sex fantasy; it is taking my normal encounters with her and attempting to establish a believable context where the two of us could be together for an illicit affair. In my effort to create a "suspension of disbelief" in which the reader would go along with the premise that a forty-four year old man can seduce a twenty-four year old woman, I plotted this out with someone I know in order to create an air of authenticity. The character for my story is my age, and his new partner is a rookie in his twenties as well as his young wife who is beautiful. That is why it was necessary for me to choose someone like Leah because she the same age as the person my protagonist will be having a licentious affair with. But, no one will ever read the actual piece about me and Leah, especially my wife.
So far, these exercises where I work out plot details using friends, relatives, and acquaintances of mine has worked; at least from my standpoint. It is fun, in a way to take innocuous dealings with my friends, family, and acquaintances and carry them to extremes. It is also imperative that I keep these notes private. If my wife ever got a hold of my secret "files" and read them not understanding how I employ this technique, I'd find myself in divorce court the next day and she'd be looking over her shoulder for a hit man, testing the brakes on her car, and having the dog taste all of her food. After all, I can't offer to drive Leah home from work after her car's engine mysteriously siezes if my wife's alive, can I? That would be cheating.
infidelity manuscript novel suspension of disbelief writing excercise writng story characters