Front Page, Musings

True to Life. Sort Of.

For many writers, a big source of inspiration for characters are friends and family. Makes sense. These are people whom you see frequently and know their quirks, speech patterns, personality, and could describe quite easily. Why struggle for hours thinking up a name or description or poring over character sheets when you have a throng of people at your fingertips? Some authors even go so far as to mine the backgrounds of friends and family for plots and subplots. Indeed, the joke about being nice to the writer or else you’ll end up in their next book can be quite true.

Unless you’re me. For years I have stayed away from using family and friends for inspiration. Though I am clearly writing fiction, I worry if I use someone I know, even if it is as simple as a description or pulling a couple of interesting traits from them, they will think I view them as being that person on the page. I shied away from even using their names regardless if the description or personality of the character had zero connection with the same name real life counterpart.

It’s not that I worry about being sued. Writers are covered under the law from being sued just because a character either has a strong resemblance or a passing resemblance to a fictional character. It’s why this language appears after the title page: This is a work of fiction. All of the characters, organizations, and events portrayed in this novel are either products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously.

But even with this legal protection, I was still afraid. Afraid of what other people would think about me. I used to worry what would happen if I have a character which resembles someone I know and the person they are loosely based on reads it. Will they jump to conclusions and believe I view them like that? Will they be upset? Will they be happy? Will they stop talking to me? I’m usually a non-confrontational person and though I know what my intent was and recognize a fictional character is not the same as a flesh and blood person, it was a risk I wasn’t willing to take.

However, I’ve realized how flawed this thinking is. Yes, my characters and situations are entirely made up. But I get inspired from a variety of sources: newspaper articles, listening to NPR, shows and movies I watch, books I’ve read, bullshitting with people, etc. So how is using a friend’s name or distinctive look or personality traits of a family member any different? Why not use people I know, even in a small way, to help flesh out a character?

Looking to friends, family, and even myself makes things a little easier. Writing is incredibly difficult, and I am someone very prone to making things more complicated then they need to be. It’s one of my few natural skills. So, if I can make certain things like names, descriptions, character traits, even events easier to come up with then I should use them.

Another way to look at it is those around you are resources. They can become part of your writer’s toolbox in whatever way you need them to be. Perhaps a friend has an interesting job that inspires you to write a story. Or maybe a family member has a unique personality that fits in with the world you are creating. Again, anything which makes writing a little bit easier, use it.

And while I have realized it is okay to mine people you know for you work, it is also important to keep in mind that at the end of the day, your friends and family are still people. Be respectful and think heavily about how you use them in a story. Don’t be afraid, though, as no matter how strongly a character may be based upon someone you know, that character is still its own one of its kind person.

Front Page, Musings

Hear Much?

Over the past few months I’ve few posted about words I love, words I don’t, and slang terms I wish would go away. Thinking about language in this way made me realize there are words I rarely see that I wish I would see used more. All of these words I like because not only are they unusual, they just look striking and sound interesting when said aloud. They also make one sound smarter without coming across as pretentious.

Copse: This word means a group of trees like in a forest or grove. I first remember seeing this used in one of the Harry Potter books. I’m sure I’d seen it before, but for some reason when I saw it in that Harry Potter book it stuck with me. Oddly enough, after I looked it up I noticed it in other books and it’s a word I’ve used in my own work.

Suss: Suss is a British slang term meaning to investigate or figure something out and has only been around since the mid-1960s. Honestly, I thought this was a much older word since it just, well, sounds like a much older word. In my head I can hear a character living in a time long before the 1960s using it as he or she is working to solve a crime.

Succulent: This one is admittedly a bit tricky. Succulent is a word which is used a lot when describing plants, but I don’t recall seeing it used in other ways. It has other definitions such as something which has desirable qualities or something which offers mental nourishment. So, beyond its botanical usage, succulent is a word which I think should be get applied more to other things.

Bilious: Depending upon its context, bilious can either be a rather gross or interesting word. As might be apparent in looking at it, bilious does have the word bile as a root. And yes, it does have a couple of definitions related to bile. However, it also has a couple of non-medical related definitions as an adjective for someone who is disagreeable or peevish or describing something as unpleasant.

Melancholy: Since I enjoy reading historical fiction set during Victorian times, I do see this word. It means a state of profound sadness and in my reading, it is used euphemistically as a way of saying a person suffers from what nowadays would be considered depression. I think it’s a great word to use in modern or futuristic fiction. There’s a certain elegance to it.

Malaise: Another old-fashion word I see in older works or stories set in days of yore. Whenever you want to get across a state of feeling not normal physically but also knowing you aren’t sick, malaise is a great word. I have noticed malaise and melancholy used interchangeably. Though they have different definitions, I think it’s because they describe a feeling some of us have had so well.


I think whenever a person sees or hears these words, it causes the mind to pause and think. It makes you pay more attention. These words are beautiful because of that power. As a writer, I want to incorporate all these words into my writing not because I think it makes me sound smarter, but because they are special. I wonder if other writers experience this whenever they come across unusual words when they read? I would imagine so as how else does language survive?

Front Page, Musings

Weekly Musing: Whack Slang

Language is ever changing. New words form while others fade away into obscurity. Definitions also change over time and are dependent on context. All of us have different language we use at work vs. how we talk to family and friends. With constant change in language it’s difficult at times to keep up and that’s before slang is thrown into the mix.

Slang is defined as very informal usage of vocabulary and idioms that are more metaphorical, playful, and ephemeral than ordinary language. It also means jargon used by a class or profession.

Every one of us uses slang daily even if we don’t realize it. Some terms have been around so long many of us forget they are slang terms. For example, we say something costs a buck which means we are saying something costs one dollar rather than a male deer. Or we refer to someone as a couch potato rather than saying someone spent all day on the couch watching TV or playing video games.

While there are many slang terms I use, or think are clever, below are a few of the words I wish would just disappear.

Cray cray – Somehow this replaces crazy. Not sure how repeating the same word twice replaces one word. It’s not even saving syllables as crazy is two and cray cray is also two syllables. It also sounds utterly juvenile. Any grown up who uses it, and not in a sarcastic, funny way, I automatically cannot take seriously.


 Lit – I’ll admit this one confuses me depending upon its usage. I get when people say a party was lit to mean the party was awesome. Confusion sets in when it’s used to describe a person. Context isn’t helpful. Are they saying the person is awesome? Or are they saying the person was intoxicated? has a couple of entries claiming saying something or someone is lit dates back to the early days of jazz and refers to a state where a person is just drunk enough to be relaxed enough to play their instrument well. also seems to back up the definition of lit as referring to a state of intoxication.


Spill the tea – This one is relatively new to me as I only started hearing it the past year and I think it’s a really stupid one. Spill the tea apparently means to gossip. I have no idea what spilling tea has to do with gossiping unless it’s a reference to a group of women gathered together to talk over tea? Considering it means to gossip then I suppose this makes sense. Still a silly phrase.

spill the tea

 Clapback – Initially, I thought the term clapback had something to do with STDs as the word clap is a slang term for gonorrhea. Apparently, this has nothing to do with the transmission of STDs. Clapback means to insult someone who first insulted you. Or as it more commonly known as a comeback. How did we get from comeback to clapback I have no idea. Again, it’s not anymore efficient to say clapback over comeback.


Throwing shade – This is another word I’m a bit confused as to its proper usage. I’ve heard it used to describe someone insulting another person without using their name. I’ve also heard it used to describe a person with a bad attitude. Either way it makes no sense. I have no idea what the verb throw and the noun shade have to do with insulting someone or walking around with an attitude. Even when I think about it in a metaphorical sense I just can’t see how throwing shade became a slang term.

 throwing shade

Bish – Bish is the shortened version of bitch because that one extra letter is too much? Because the tc sound needed to be changed to a s sound? I don’t know and hadn’t heard it until last year when Katy Perry used it in a song. As much as I’d like to blame her this word has been around for over a decade according to The website claims bish is the nicer, work place friendly version of bitch. Um, huh? If you don’t want to cuss, then don’t, but don’t walk around saying stuff like bish. Makes you sound like a cray cray child.


On fleek – Again, I find myself trying to figure out how a slang term that means “on point” is any different from just saying on point. What does fleek itself even mean? As far as I could find, no one knows.


Totes – Much like cray cray, totes is used to shorten totally. Because totally is such a difficult word to say. Totes idiotic.


Bae – Oh god, another word which shortened an already short word for reasons? Heaven forbid people say babe or baby when referring to their significant other. Another definition I saw was it makes it an acronym for “before anyone else”. If people are using it as an acronym then it makes their sentence even more non-sensical.



I know there is other slang I don’t like but some are just so common I can’t remember them all. Let’s see if we can put all these together in a sentence, shall we? My bae was on fleek throwing shade on some lit, cray cray bish spilling tea on how she totes clapbacked when we know she didn’t. There. One of the dumbest sentences I’ve ever intentionally written. Please, if you’re going to use slang, and you will because you are human, use it responsibly.