Ewkaay, how's this for coincidence: at a family gathering on Sunday, a cousin tells me that he is essentially living the situation that is the crux of my novel. That's one.
Then he tells me he can offer "inside information" about the REAL LIFE people who are going through this situation. I can't think what to say to this.
Then he tells me he's written a novel.
No, it's not on the situation we were discussing.
That's when I start to breathe again.
So, my head is spinning a little at this point. We talk about my novel, which I can tell he thinks is not the most original idea ever, but admits he's never seen anything quite like the idea out there. We talk about his novel. I'm impressed, very, and depressed, slightly, at being in the presence of someone who can talk about it in the past tense. I wrote. Not, I'm writing.
He kept it a secret, mostly, which while I'm talking to him starts to sound like a good idea. No exposure, no risk of public failure for lack of follow through. No risk of never getting to the place he's at: the "I wrote" place.
Finally, I grab a chair and stop spinning.
On one, I'm glad to know that there is relevance in the real world for my narrator and her situation.
On two, I have to say no to this. I'm not looking to be a reporter, and fiction is about creating larger truths from smaller lies, so smaller truths won't help me. The character is driving this bus, and she's not taking any passengers but me.
On three, I'm inspired by his hard work and courage (I think it really takes this to write, for anyone) but I suddenly feel like demanding to see his Longtime Suffering Writers Association membership card.
Funny, on the surface it seemed he had much of what I'm looking for: the nitty g. on the very situation my character faces, and on another level, the divine past tense of "writing". In fact, no one has what I'm looking for but me. I wouldn't have chosen my chosen subject if I didn't think I could make it real, and that past tense of "writing" will only be real for me when I make the present tense of fanny-in-chair a constant.
Talking of which, if I were being paid to write my novel, I'd be fired by now. The last weeks have been uberstressful and chockful of truly paid work, so my poor darling is sulking in the corner. Come Saturday, though, I'm grabbing her wrist and dragging her out. Can't wait.