Thursday, March 4, 2010

Negative Inspirations

One excellent thing about being a writer: you can get your inspirations in all kinds of negative ways as well as positive ones, and obtain a catharsis by killing people... on paper, of course. Or in e-form, as the case may be.

I always tell the story on myself about how my first job as a lawyer was at a law firm, and I had mixed emotions about the experience. It was the inspiration for the first novel manuscript I completed--a mystery in which the new associate in a law firm finds the body of the senior partner in the first chapter. Very cathartic! I never did sell that story, though.

I assume that the people who were wronged in the recent Ponzi schemes or other financial disasters might need more than killing someone in a story to feel as if they’d achieved full retribution... but it may help them at least a little.

I had an experience this week that gave me all kinds of ideas about doing away with corporate executives in one of my novels. I learned first-hand about how badly a certain TV satellite company treats its customers--Dish Network. Okay, I admit I’m out for a bit of vengeance-by-writing, here, but I was utterly frustrated by a fee increase only two months after my family entered into their onerous contract with conflicting terms. After I spent two hours or so being shunted from one supposed customer service and “loyalty” representative to the next, being put on hold and in endless loops, and hung up on--and getting almost nowhere in my questions and requests--my mysterious mind started churning. How to exact revenge, without paying the fees they claim are due? Maybe I’ll include them in a fictional version of having an underling, who’s paid to spew the party line, decide he’s had enough and find a way to do away with an upper echelon exec or two. Maybe it’ll be something else. Or maybe just writing about it here will make me feel at least a little better--as I join lots of other people who’ve complained, in other ways, online!

To be fair, they did toss us a bone (see, I did incorporate a pet concept in this post!) of a small credit.

Interestingly, like so many other companies in these days of supposedly caring about the consumer, Dish had the gall to place a recorded call to us that contained a telephone survey about how our experience had been. Unfortunately, a family member accidentally pushed the wrong button and hung up before I had the opportunity to tell them what I really thought!

Have you ever had a bad experience as a consumer? If so, what did you do about it? And did you ever have a bad experience that led to inspiration for your writing or reading?


Monica Ferris said...

There's a t-shirt that warns, Be Nice to Me or I'll Put You in My Novel. I've taken characteristics of people I dislike and used them, and of people I like or admire and used them. But I only use real people, names and all, if they are good people.

Sheila Connolly said...

Monica, I have that as a sweatshirt.

Can I give the flip side of this experience? Recently I purchased a rolling kitchen island on-line. For once in this crazy world, it was exactly as promised--all the pieces were there, they fit together beautifully, and the whole was of higher quality than I expected.

I thought the company should hear this, so I emailed them. I got an email in return, in which the sender thanked me, then told me that he had forwarded my message to their workshop in Thailand, and that they would be very happy too. How nice (if odd) that I have made a bunch of Thai craftsmen happy.

It does help make up for all the times things I've ordered have arrived late, incorrect, or broken.

Terri Thayer said...

I find that even the bad people morph into something better when I write them. My baddest guys are purely fictional.

But those feelings of frustration and helplessness at the hands of uncaring customer care people, those I use.

Linda O. Johnston said...

I like that t-shirt, Monica! Wish I had one. My preference is generally not to use real people, names and all, in my stories, though.

That is really great, Sheila, that you had such a good experience--and that the company even rewarded its lower-level employees by letting them know how pleased you were!

I'm definitely going to use the emotions I felt that resulted from this miserable experience, Terri.
I recognize that the people I talked to didn't necessarily generate the rules they had to spout--but I still consider them villains of sorts and will use them somewhere!

Camille Minichino said...

Me, too!

Every slight ends up somewhere in a book, names and certain details changed!

I do find it cathartic and am relieved that that's usually all it takes for me.

Janie Emaus said...

Don't get me started on customer service reps. But I've been on the other side, so, I try to give them some slack. And yes..most experiences do end up in my stories.

Linda O. Johnston said...

Isn't it great to be a writer, Camille and Janie?

I admit I don't envy those people who have to spout the party line, Janie. It's their job to put up with irritated customers like me!

Joanna Campbell Slan said...

I also put in my pet peeves. For example, I HATE hearing people eat. I don't know why, but it really bugs me, so I think I'll have Kiki hate that, too.

It's the wee details that really round out a character.

Camille Minichino said...

In short, writers save a lot of money by not needing therapists!

Linda O. Johnston said...

I consider my mystery protagonist Kendra my alter ego, Joanna, so we do share some likes and dislikes.

I'm not sure what Kendra would say about being my therapy replacement, Camille, but I'd imagine she'd love it! Of course I also write about shapeshifters. That's a whole other kind of therapy.

Betty Hechtman said...

I got that tee shirt as a gift.

And yes, I have used real people as models for several bad guys. I doubt they'd recognize themselves, though.