Oops, I did it again.
I’m starting to see a disturbing trend in my writing: I might be a terrible person. I sometimes pull people from my subconscious (a.k.a. long list of people on my naughty list) and put collective pieces of their personalities into a single character. Not my main characters, of course. But the side-show characters that help me add comedic relief–at their expense. And it’s not just my grandmother (see Punching Grandma post).
Someone tell me this is normal. Do it. Now. Or I’ll write about you. See! I can’t stop. And I’m not sure I want to. My, God. It’s an addiction. Look, Mom, my first real addiction!
Thankfully, I do use a pen name; though I’m not sure how great of one it is. (Thinking of changing it. Feel free to make suggestions in the comments.). A few people know my real name and are probably wondering if they’re on my list. No, they are not. I know better. Well, except for the whole ‘Punching Grandma’ thing. But that was a one-off. Probably.
I’m not sure what my point is, because, frankly, I’m not going to stop doing it. I can’t. It’s not done consciously. And none of my characters are “real” people. My writing is 100% fictional. None of the situations actually happened. But if I see a character on television, or remember a jerk from my past, and sprinkle a little of how he/she made me feel into my writing, is that so wrong? Is it a little piece of revenge? Or is it simply a representation of feelings I buried that need to get out in a constructive way? Yes, let’s choose the last option. It makes me sound like less of a revenge-seeking lunatic.
I didn’t even realize I had done it again until yesterday, when I was proofreading a chapter that I wrote weeks ago. Sure enough, I took a handful of former students (yes, I was an educator–don’t be so surprised) and combined them into a character I call Nugget.
Nugget represents all the high school kids that drove me absolutely crazy and that I judged in my head–never out loud, of course. I do have some sense of decency. I have had well over 1,000 students. Nugget is a nameless, faceless representation of my interactions with the typical apathetic student.
I loved my little Nuggets, much like a parent. I tried to mold and shape the Nuggets. I tried to … well, let’s just say I tried. The Nugget in my new book (not released yet, but he does make an appearance in my first novel, Working On It), is a picture of what happens when Nugget goes off to college. My main character’s reaction to him is what I always wanted to say to them but never could. Here’s a preview:
Jesus. This kid is such a little shit. Okay, he’s not a kid. He’s got to be 18 or 19, but he’s a constant thorn in my side.
I suspect he’s a thorn in a lot of sides. Or at least an easy target. His fraternity did nickname him ‘Nugget,’ after all. That’s not the sort of nickname one gets when they’re well-respected. He’s offered no less than three times to pay me to write a paper for him.
“One, it’s unethical. Two, it’s grounds for getting kicked out of the school. Three, I would never let someone else take credit for my work. Four, I do not like repeating myself!”
I make eye contact with Dr. Marcum across the writing lab. She’s helping a group of her Poly Sci students with their midterm papers. She smiles and winks at me before turning back to the group. I wonder if she heard me.
“Shh, lower your voice,” he whines.
Maybe I was being a little too loud. But this pisses me off.
This is not how a person should have to spend a Saturday night, listening to Marty McFly over here bitch and moan about how hard his classes are. My job in the writing lab is to assist students with their writing. Assist, not do the work for them.
“Listen, Jay, why don’t you and Silent Bob over there—” I nod towards his pledge brother who is waiting for him by the door.
“My name’s Adam.”
From the look on his face, he has no idea I was insulting him. Priceless. What self-respecting college student hasn’t heard of the movie Clerks? A loud laugh catches my attention and I look up. It’s Dr. Marcum. She’s not looking at me, but I’m positive she’s now listening to us. She’s only 29 and one of the funniest professors on campus.
“I know what your name is, Nugget.”
He pinches his lips together, like I’ve angered him. I do have some sympathy for the name, but his stature demands such a nickname. If it was picked because of his personality or intelligence, it would be something like ‘40-Watt.’
Personally, I prefer Askhole. You know, the sort of person who constantly asks whiny, annoying questions. Kind of like a toddler. Thank you, Rebecca, for teaching me that one.
Adam doesn’t budge from his spot. I don’t think he knows how to exit this conversation. Lucky for him, I’m a helper.
“Listen, Adam. I feel for you. I do. I know what it’s like to feel the insurmountable pressure of performing well and that you simply cannot get over that mountain. But you know what I do when I’m tasked with something that is so insanely difficult I’m tempted to hide from it?”
“I do my fucking job. So, walk away from my desk and do your job, Adam.”
He scowls, like he’s confused. “I don’t have a job.”
How in the hell did he get admitted to this school? I’m tempted to throw something at him. Or shake him as hard as I can. Wait, I think there are new laws about that. Shaking is bad, right?
I silently count to five and reach for patience. She’s trying to ignore me. Excuse me, Miss Patience. Sorry to interrupt your nap. How about a little help? Maybe you can ask Miss Compassion or Miss Empathy for assistance? No? They’ve not shown up today? Grrrreat.
“Yes, you do. Being a student is your job, Adam. So, put on your big boy pants and do your goddamned job.”
Adam’s face turns red. I don’t think it’s from anger. I think the little guy is embarrassed. And since my Grinch of a heart seems to be growing three sizes today, I throw him a life jacket instead of letting him drown.
“Get a draft going and then I’ll help you. Capisce?”
Adam’s face falls, but instead of turning tail he nods and goes back to his computer. Silent Bob—or whatever his name is—is laughing and goes over to join him. Maybe he’ll be a good pal and help a Nugget out.
See? Not too terrible? Maybe I’m not so blood thirsty, after all. It’s not like I’m going after individuals. Aside from my grandmother. Oh, and I’d like to point out that the personal challenge I made to use the word ‘askhole’ in a book was clearly met in the chapter above. You’re welcome.