Full Disclosure

by | January 13, 2023 | General | 1 comment

I have a confession to make: many of my stories were inspired by personal experiences.

I’m sure you’re as shocked to hear that as I was to admit it. Writers hide behind the disclaimer “This is a work of fiction and any resemblance to actual persons or events is unintentional.” If the truth were to be told, how many authors can say that with a straight face while not crossing their fingers?

While it’s basically true in my case, I must concede that many of my characters are composites of people I’ve met. They’re not exact clones, but I’ll take a physical trait or hairstyle from one, a speech pattern from another, an interesting quirk or habit from someone else, mix them all together, and presto—I’ve created a character. The other thing I’ll cop to is when I’m writing a scene, I may have a favorite actor or actress in mind, and will draw on their likeness for inspiration. I just don’t reveal who the model is.

The same is true for many of my plots and situations. Something may happen and I’ll play the “what if” game. I’m reminded of a story about the creation of the classic ‘60s sitcom “Get Smart.” When Mel Brooks and Buck Henry pitched the idea, they said “What if James Bond and Inspector Clouseau had a child together?” Thus was born bumbling secret agent Maxwell Smart.

One of my holiday romances, “Mistletoe and Palm Trees,” was inspired by something that happened to me. I had planned a trip to Siesta Key, Florida to do a few book signing appearances and spend a week on the beach. At the last minute, my traveling companion was unable to go, and I took the trip alone. I thought “What if a guy ended up in the Florida Keys alone during the Christmas holidays because his girlfriend broke up with him and he met a woman who left her fiancée at the altar?” That experience was good for a book and a sequel, and it was fun showing these two fractured souls getting together and developing a relationship.

Another romance, “Who Gets the Friends?” resulted from something that happened during the break-up of my marriage several years earlier. I discovered that once we split, some of the so-called mutual friends we had no longer wanted to associate with me. They took sides, and some of them outright ignored me in public. I had to start all over, not only with my life but in making some new friends. This was the plot for my story, and to say I had fun with it is an understatement. Have you heard the phrase “Don’t get mad, get even”?

Many of my spy thrillers and private eye mysteries may not reflect actual personal exploits, but some of the situations in those stories incorporate real events. My private eye mystery “The Other Woman” (Vic Fallon Book Four) is an example. At the beginning of the story, Fallon runs into a politician from his hometown while on a layover in an airport, and the man is murdered shortly after they speak. In my own case, I once had a long wait in Atlanta on my way home from a trip. I saw our state’s Attorney General at a departure gate and we spoke for a few minutes. He wasn’t killed afterward, but again, I played the “what if” game.

The Nick Seven spy thriller “Catch and Release” (Book 5) is another example. I was having lunch at a restaurant with waterfront dining. Many boats were docked nearby, including a yacht. Servers from the restaurant took out food for four people, but I only saw three on board. One of the trays was taken into the cabin where the curtains were closed. “Hmm,” my devious mind thought. “Who’s inside and why don’t they want to be seen? Possibly a celebrity, or a criminal in hiding? Is it someone on a watch list who isn’t supposed to be in the country? Is the person too ill to come out?” That jumpstarted the story and my imagination took over from there.

Some authors throw caution to the wind when they substitute fiction for fact. I know one writer who has made no secret that the main criminal in his political soap opera, named President Ronald Rumpke, might be mistaken for a former officeholder. At least when I picked on that same person in “The Big Fall” (Nick Seven Book 7), I changed the name and physical appearance so I couldn’t be sued. Did this unnamed individual influence the character I created? I’ll plead the fifth.

I’m always amused when someone says “I’d better not wind up as a character in your next book!” It’s also funny when I get asked if a character is based on someone real, or if the sexual exploits were inspired by personal experiences. In both cases, I just smile and remain silent.

Tim Smith

Tim Smith is an award-winning bestselling author. His books range from romantic mystery/thriller to contemporary erotic romance. He is also a freelance photographer. When he isn't pursuing those two careers he can often be found in The Florida Keys, indulging his passion for parasailing between research and seeking out the perfect Pina Colada.

1 Comment

  1. Lisabet Sarai

    Hi, Tim,

    Sorry I didn’t drop by sooner. I was having browser trouble.

    I think we all weave our personal experiences into our stories. But as you say, they’re just starting points.

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