View Full Version : Name Your Nemesis

08-06-2008, 09:39 PM
Just came across this passage in an Atlantic Magazine article on David Simon, creator of The Wire.

In a session before a live audience in Baltimore last April, for a local storytelling series called The Stoop, Simon was asked to speak on a topic labeled “My Nemesis.” He began by reciting, by name, some of the people he holds grudges against, going all the way back to grade school. He was being humorous, and the audience was laughing, but anyone who knows him knows that his monologue was, like his fiction, slightly overstated for effect, but basically the truth.

“I keep these names, I treasure them,” he said.

As it turns out my latest fiction project is being driven by my real-life nemesis--right now with mixed results. I'm focusing so much on the rich details that make him my nemesis, that I'm missing those essential details that make him human. Anyone else working with a real life nemesis? And if so, how do you keep it real, in that no one is as much a monster as our grudges may make them out to be.

08-06-2008, 09:49 PM
I've used elements of past nemeses to create "bad guys" in my present stories. That nasty little girl who teased me so mercilessly in 2nd grade? I can use parts of her for the nasty little girl who picks on my MC as a child in that flashback scene.

Then, taking it a step further, I can ask myself, What made her tick, anyway? Why did she treat me that way? Doing so can help me create a realistic "bad guy" character. It requires that I remove myself emotionally from the situation, though. That can be hard.

I also take a perverse satisfaction in naming annoying characters after particularly difficult students from that year (first names only, of course). I can always make that character get the sweet comeuppance that I can so rarely get in real life. :tongue Though I often end up writing more about such characters and making them realistic enough that they become sympathetic after all. Darn it!


Soccer Mom
08-06-2008, 10:02 PM
Oh yeah. Ask me about the rotten kid who bullied mine in kindergarten. I named a hooker after the girl and served her up to a serial killer. Revenge: I writes it.

I often take the name of someone who is driving me crazy in real life and tweak it before putting it into a story. I've got to find my entertainment where I can.

08-06-2008, 10:06 PM
That's part of the fun of writing is putting people in it we know and doing horrible things to them. Its like the Sims without the graphics.

Calla Lily
08-06-2008, 10:07 PM
The convent as a whole. :D It's morphed into a cult of blood-drinking ritual torture-killers.

Soccer Mom
08-06-2008, 10:17 PM
That's part of the fun of writing is putting people in it we know and doing horrible things to them. Its like the Sims without the graphics.

I'm just quoting this because that is seriously awesome. You've just inspired my blog for today. :D

Danger Jane
08-06-2008, 10:32 PM
I couldn't bear to write the people who truly drive me nuts into a story. I don't think I could even use the name on a character that comes to a bad end. They just make my blood boil too hot.

Plus I'd feel bad for sorta-wanting that bad thing to happen to them.

ink wench
08-06-2008, 11:11 PM
People I hate or people who have wronged me turn up in my novels all the time. Often dead, sometimes humiliated. What? Like everyone doesn't start writing as a form of therapy?

Seriously, my last novel was the most for fun this. My MC's ex-boyfriend turned stalker was totally based off my real life ex-fiance turned stalker. Since he's one reason why I'd consider a pen name if I ever got published, he deserves it. My MC also makes references to having punched a girl in the face when she was in middle school. The victim's name is a conglomeration of two girls who bullied me mercilessly in grade school. Yup, definitely cheaper and more fun than therapy.

Soccer Mom
08-07-2008, 02:25 AM
I said I was going to blog on this and I just did:

3 Ways Writing is Awesomesauce on Top (http://areallynicemurder.blogspot.com/). Thanks for the idea!

08-07-2008, 02:28 AM
I took the scary gym teacher I loathed and turned her into the love interest in my novel.

...What? Why y'all lookin' at me funny like that?

08-07-2008, 02:42 AM
I used to chart how I was feeling with certain nemises by the body count. Some scenes (in early versions) started with one death and by the end of a few chapters, hundreds lay dead.

Then I got over it. (LOL...then, in reality, I got transferred to another work group and could stop contemplating murder every 5 minutes.)

I think now they're all distilled into one big glop called "The Adversity" and I pull out whatever works.

I CAN say that frustrations elsewhere improve my writing output 99 times out of 100.

Claudia Gray
08-07-2008, 03:50 AM
I don't see why the people I've had trouble with should be a part of my writing, which is my escape and my joy.

08-07-2008, 04:01 AM
I've wanted to use my two third-grade nemeses for a long, long time now. I can't imagine how many times I've contemplated them somehow being removed from my life...

(Both girls, btw, picked solely on me. Both were totally sweet to everyone except me. "Oh, we're happily playing! Hi, [my best friend at the time, who was standing next to me], you want to play with us? Oh, sorry, Lilli, too many people. Maybe some other time." My teacher tried to explain one of them to me. "Oh, she's going through a messy divorce, so it's hard on her." Yeah. Thanks for your ridiculously stupid grown-up logic. I've got little-kid logic, and let me tell you, she has NO RIGHT to pick on me and me alone. Gah! [A few years later, my parents went through a much, much worse kind of divorce, so I'm not totally unsympathetic...] The only thing that kept me sane was that the first bully moved away after first semester and the second bully didn't start picking on me until second semester.)

...oops. Sorry about the LilliRant. I can get carried away sometimes...

The point is, I don't use my nemeses in my writing, but sometimes I think I should, just to get over the bad blood that's been left behind.

08-07-2008, 04:42 AM
My MC's jackass ex-boyfriend who believes he's the love child of Kenneth Anger and Quentin Tarentino, with a generous helping of Oliver Stone thrown in for good measure is - well, my jackass ex who believed pretty much the same thing. And her snotty self-proclaimed female "archrival" is heavily based on a girl I used to work with who, for some reason, declared herself my arch-nemesis.

08-07-2008, 07:49 PM
This is an interesting question. But I've found that my own greatest nemesis is myself. I think as a result a lot of the things I fear and find difficult are things that work their way into my writing, as complications for the other characters--both in the form of bad guys and as weaknesses they themselves face. The most difficult things my characters have to deal with are often their own failings and poor decisions, rather than some bad guy outside themselves.

There've been a lot of people I've detested in real life, but I don't tend to write about them. I find enough things to detest in myself to write about for a lifetime.

08-07-2008, 07:53 PM
Phoebe Cates.

08-07-2008, 08:13 PM
I couldn't make my villain work until I realized I'd have to base them on someone real.
Then - ooh, boy.