Earlier today I was on a train from my hometown of Bridgend to my current place of dwelling, London. Shortly after boarding the train and settling down with a copy of the newspaper of choice for the chattering liberal (i.e. The Guardian) I couldn't help but notice there was a, shall we say, somewhat neurotic girl in the seat behind me. She was tall, with blond curls, rather posh accented and 24 years old. I know the last to be true because she said so to her friend on the phone ("come on, I'm 24 remember?"). In a loud voice. Punctuated with giggles. Here's a selection of what she said:
Ah, we all love our mobile phones, teeheehee! (Photo courtesy of Blake Emrys)
"Do you want me to wear it tonight, and then it can smell like me?"
"Can your dog sleep with me? (Pause) F**k off!"
"You make her happy. If you don't then I'm going to cut off your face and put it on mine so that I can make her happy instead."
"He called me a psycho? What the hell? (Voice gradually rising through subsequent speech) How can he say that? That barbecue sauce landed on my dress! It could've landed somewhere else. I'm not a psycho! I'M NOT A F**KING PSYCHO!"
"You need a shower now? So, what, you're going to leave me at my most vulnerable?"
Now, who was on the other end of the phone or what they were discussing I'll never know. That's the thing about only hearing half a conversation, of course. Looking around, it was plain to see that my fellow passengers were somewhat discomfited by her shrill phone conversation, and duly pretended to bury their noses further in to their iPads, paperbacks, coffees, windowpanes etc...
But not me.
Yes, you can guess what happened. I whipped out a notebook and scribbled it all down. All the time thinking 'I could use this'. There's a character in my WIP who would definitely say at least some of the above. When she got off at Cardiff, a mere 20 minutes after I boarded, I was probably the only person on the carriage disappointed she left...
This sort of eavesdropping is just one example (comedians use it as material all the time, lest we forget). A while back I was with a writer friend, who shall remain nameless, at a coffee shop and told her about some issues I was having with my then girlfriend's father. She didn't quite say 'you could write about this' straightaway, but she did so quicker than any non-writer would!
It was ever thus. All writers borrow from real life and fuse it with their imagination, surely. Are there brilliantly creative writers out there who rely solely on their imagination. My guess is, not many. I'd like to meet them to ask how they do it. Because morally objectionable or not, I'm going to keep on borrowing from real life, thank you very much. It may be fiction, but it needs to be believable! Just stop me if I start trying to incorporate every little incident I come across in real life in to my imagined worlds...