Real life events affecting a novel

When one writes a novel, or maybe even just a short story, sometimes things can happen during that time frame which inevitably impact the story. This has happened to me with my novel.

Confession time: I have not worked on my novel in over a month. In working on it for over a year now, simply put, I am just stick of the story and I needed a break. Also, I am towards the end of editing, the end of the novel, and the ending is the hardest part. So, saying I needed a break is a convenient excuse for me to procrastinate deciding exactly how to finish my story.

But let us go back to events in real life having an impact on the story: I would like to give a real life example that is not me. I just finished reading the 13th (and very last) Sookie Stackhouse novel; the Sookie Stackhouse novels are the books that the very popular True Blood show is based off of.

Many of you may already be aware that Sookie’s story takes place in Louisiana, in the fictional town of Bon Temps, in the northern area of the state. For the fourth or fifth book, I can’t recall which now, the story primarily moved to New Orleans.

While Charlaine Harris was writing this particular book in the series, Hurricane Katrina swept in, devastating the city of New Orleans. She put an introduction in that book explaining that this happened, and she debated over whether or not to continue on with the story as she had originally planned. Or, if she should instead incorporate Katrina into her story; she ended up opting for the latter.

Two major life events have happened that could have a significant impact on my novel. One of them is the Netwon, Connecticut shooting. My story takes place in a fictional town called Sherry, Connecticut, that is basically right where Newton is: next to Danbury, in the southwestern part of the state.

The second life event that happened is much closer to home for me.

My novel is about a girl who dies of a heroin overdose prior to the beginning of the story. The novel is about the small town in Connecticut she left behind, that rallied around her death.

In writing the first draft of my story just about this time last year, I made a decision that would probably be deemed quite controversial by some: I decided to interview a friend of mine who had a serious heroin problem in order to get research for my story.

This person just passed away four days ago from my writing this post, from a heroin overdose.

How that is going to impact my novel now, I don’t know, but I can’t see how it won’t. One of my themes, or ideas that I am attempting to convey through my novel is the obvious fact that heroin is bad: it’s destructive, destroying lives, both those of the users and those who love them.

I also delve into snorting heroin versus shooting up heroin: some people seem to think snorting it isn’t that bad, because you aren’t shooting it.

I want to bring attention to the fact that it is still heroin, and further, most people who snort it inevitably end up making the transition to shooting it up; they can use less of the drug to get higher, and when you’re addicted and spending money on something like this, making that switch is just too tempting to resist – this is something I would never have known had I not interviewed my friend on the topic.

His brother thinks that he will live on through my writing.

So many thoughts are going through my head, the first of which is guilt upon knowing that I used this person for my own gain, for my own research for my story, when perhaps I should have been focusing my efforts more on encouraging him to get help.

People deal with addictions in different ways, by which I mean, people who are not addicts deal with addicts in different ways. I am of the belief that people are adults who make their own decisions and have their own free will.  In other words, they are going to do what they are going to do.

If I were to help someone like that, I believe they would have to ask for help first. I can’t force it upon them. You can’t make someone change unless they want to. You can lead a horse to water, and all that.

I know my friend would have kept doing drugs whether or not I interviewed him about it, whether or not I offered my help, etc – I really do believe that. Still, it is hard not to feel some sort of guilt about what happened to him, which brings me full circle back to my novel, and the characters who all feel guilt about the girl who died.

Maybe my friend’s passing will help me relate to my characters in a whole different, more intricate way. I think that my friend really would have been happy about that.