Real Life Seeps In

by Steven Verrier

Very interesting. You come up with a few themes to be addressed, a few conflicts (possibly) to be resolved, and an alternate world in which your story is to take place. And then, months or years later when the story is written, you look back almost in amazement at how many details from your own life have seeped into the story.

In my second novel, Plan B:

  1. Danny, the protagonist, gets an early start on driving when his father lets him get behind the wheel at age fifteen. My father did the same with me … though once I reached legal driving age I still managed to fail my driver’s test the first time I took it.
  2. Danny meets an attractive, young, female missionary when he’s traveling in Paris. He learns that her sect view sex as a recruiting tool, and he knows he’d better say no while he still can. I was in that position once when I was a couple of years older than Danny.
  3. Danny stumbles onto a topless beach while on vacation. When I was young I did the same, and my reaction was much like Danny’s.
  4. A ‘chaplaincy center’ assumes an important role while Danny attends his local college. The ‘chaplaincy center’ figured big for me when I attended my first college, too.
  5. Though Danny plays the violin and I don’t, my children have been violinists for years. They played for years in youth orchestras, as Danny does before moving away to attend university.
  6. Danny composes music. I compose music.
  7. Danny seems to have my taste in TV. He loves Leno and Seinfeld, and I do, too.
  8. We have similar taste when it comes to food, too. We both love Indian buffets.
  9. At the end of the story, Danny is about to begin a master’s degree program in Journalism. I earned a master’s in Journalism.
  10. Danny decides to pursue his graduate studies at Columbia. Years ago, I studied there, too.

Those are just the first ten shared details that come to mind. There are a lot more.

I don’t recall setting out to apply any details from my own life to Danny’s. I guess the point here is that the line separating real life from fiction is often difficult, if not impossible, to see. When I write, I try to let my characters lead the way and express themselves as best suits them. If I learn along the way – or afterwards – that a character has a lot in common with me, or sees things as I do, there’s really not much I can do about it.

There’s one thing I want to make clear, though. Plan B takes off – his life starts to unravel – when Danny, unable to make it to the restroom – pees on a school locker. I never did that, and I don’t plan to.


Steven Verrier, born in the United States and raised in Canada, has spent much of his adult life living and traveling abroad. Publications include Plan B (Saga Books, 2010), Tough Love, Tender Heart (Saga Books, 2008), Raising a Child to be Bilingual and Bicultural (Hira-Tai Books of Japan), and several short dramatic works (Brooklyn Publishers). Currently he is living with his wife, Motoko, and their five children in San Antonio, Texas. You can visit his website at

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