Everyone thinks internally when they read. Not selfishly, just internally. If I say “my high school gym”, you’ll think of your high school gym or a gym you know well. If I say “I walked into the bar”, your brain will populate the image of a bar you’ve been to. If I say “she was the bitchiest mom I’d ever met”, well, hopefully you don’t think of your own mother. But you get the point. Our brains aren’t complex enough to create new images on the fly. We use ones we already know, and tweak them based on descriptions. But if you know the person who wrote it personally, your brain will see them talking about their high school gym, the bar they go to, and the bitchiest mom growing up.
This is the #1 thing I learned from writing a book. Not the book publishing industry, not how much free time I really did have, but that if I write “ex-girlfriend” my friends will think of my ex-girlfriend. It’s no mystery that I wrote a fictional book that sounds a lot like my life. I was at Indiana University from 2009-2013, I was in ATO during that time (disclaimer: pre-CNN), I went into college with a girlfriend, I was a business major, the comparisons are obvious. But what I thought would happen, was that the people who know me would recognize the comparisons, but see the obvious differences and read the story separately.
“Oh, Brian used his surroundings as a template to create this fictional story.”
– Brian Connor’s naïve thought in February of 2015.
I never sold drugs. I’ve never been to Vegas with my friends. I’ve never even lived in a fraternity house. And people who know me, know this. But somehow their mind populates me into this character, and next thing I know I’m getting asked by a manager at work about what it’s like to get shot at. It’s been surreal.
Strangers who don’t know me might see my picture on the back and use that image as the main character, but we all did that with Harry Potter anyway, so no biggie (um, how fucking lucky was Daniel Radcliffe that he looked like the drawing on the first book?). But strangers don’t think I myself was involved in a drug-ring or was hazed until I bled, because they don’t know who I am so don’t even think about me. But some of my friends think I bled. Friends of friends think I sold coke to fraternities. And it’s really weird.
The more I thought about it, the more I realized it’s because my network doesn’t know fictional writers. Some dude from my high school doesn’t think Suzanne Collins was actually in the Hunger Games or E. L. James is this erotic SMH fiend like the chick from 50 Shades of Grey. Because that high school dude doesn’t know them, so their brain populates other images from their lives. But I guarantee E.L. James’ friends and family view her differently since that came out, and I would bet money that Suzanne Collins’ friends wonder who in her life is Gale and Peeta.
My only response to everyone? I’m not a good enough writer to create this 100% fake universe like George RR Martin did, so I needed a guide. And I used that guide to create this fictional story.
But even then, I wonder if George RR Martin’s friends think he wants to bang his sister?
*Yes I know this is a parody account... still a funny tweet!