When I first started using people I know as outlines for some of the characters in my stories, I made a pledge to never use myself as one. To this day, I have only broken that pledge once and I was almost forced into it. Almost.
Let me start by telling you that I loathe Christmas. Not the Ebeneezer Scrooge kind of loathing, mine goes much deeper than that. I hate everything about the holiday from the crappy music played decade after decade, to the greed of it (this is what I want for Christmas), to making people feel guilty for not believing in either fantasy (“Honest daddy, God knocked me up” or “If you’re good a fat guy in a red suit will break into your house and leave you stuff.”) No, Scrooge has nothing on me. This all being said, I wrote a Christmas story the people have told me is one that shows the true meaning of Christmas. I will put a link to that review at the end of this blog–just in case you don’t believe me.
With feelings like this, imagine my discomfort when my then 7 year old son came up to me and dropped this bomb, “Dad, is Santa Claus a real person?” For all his life, my wife and I had played along with the Santa fantasy since all the other kid’s parents were doing it. I never felt good about lying to my son, but I always thought the truth would hurt him worse. Pretty stupid, right? Truth is always better and now he was standing in front of me demanding the truth. Well I had no ready answer so I told him that I would give him one in the morning. After a mostly sleepless night, an inkling of an idea came to me. The next morning I told my son that he should ask Santa himself if he were real or not. So we got out some paper, pens, envelopes, and stamps then set out to do just that. When done we walked to the mailbox and sent the query on its way. My son was skeptical about all this but I had bought myself another few weeks in which to come up with an answer.
That answer appeared in the form of a letter from Santa which was simply a letter the jolly old elf left under the tree for my son. What was revealed in it worked because my son was happy and he never asked about this myth again. Afterward, I often told people about what I did and many of them with young kids would ask me for a copy of the letter, which I would provide for free. Then it dawned on me that maybe I could write a short article about the incident and sell it to a magazine. Was I ever right about that! I never sold all my rights to the work so I was able to sell the approximately 750 word article over and over again. One year it was published in Atlanta, San Francisco, and San Diego.
After a few years, this played out which is when I decided to break my pledge. I felt I could get the letter out to a greater audience if I wrote the happenings into a story called The Letter from Santa. The problem would be that this was a real event and I wanted to be able to label it as fiction. I did this by adding one small part to the story. When people I know read it I ask them to guess what that part is. So far only one person has guessed correctly. If you read the story, send me your guesses, too.
So, you can use your real life as a story and it can be successful just remember to change the names of others in it to protect yourself from the innocent.
Here is the link I promised: http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B00PCS8BBK?*Version*=1&*entries*=0