My brother Dan is a novelist, the author of the newly-released Music Made by Bears and Jibba and Jibba. I recently learned something that people who are related to novelists probably already know. Some of the details in your relative’s novels are taken from real life, from real places and real people.
The characters in the novel are not an exact replication of people you actually know, but a character might share a cousin’s name or a friend’s personality quirk. I don’t fault my brother or any novelist for doing this. Musicians, humor columnists and movie and TV writers all use real life to flesh out their work all the time.
I tend to read Dan’s books and stories on three levels. The first level is: Is this an enjoyable story? If so, I tell Dan why. If not, I tell Dan why not. The second level is: Has he massacred the English language? The answer is rarely yes, but I like catching his grammatical errors the way point guards like blocking LeBron James’ shots. The third level is: Is this character based on me or does he exhibit any of my quirks? I have not found a character based on me yet, but I suppose it’s inevitable that one day I will.
And when that inevitable day comes, I want Danny to get it right. I want him to do me justice. I want him to capture the essence of his older brother accurately, not only for the sake of posterity, but so as to limit or eliminate any social discomfort at family to-dos. Dan, let’s try to avoid the awkwardness of mom ever saying something like, “Why don’t you be nicer to your brothers in novel form?” That is why I have gone to the trouble of writing Dan this character based on me.
Marine Colonel Joe Donaletti knew he only had seconds to save the president’s life.
The blast from the terrorist’s rocket had ejected both men out of Marine One. Donaletti grasped the helicopter’s landing gear with his left hand. He and the president locked right forearms. They were flying at 120 mph more than 2,000 feet over downtown Washington.
“I’ve got you, Mr. President,” Donaletti said, his deep, masculine voice booming over the whir of the helicopter blades.
President Abraham Jefferson Washington (the first Native-American President) held on. He grasped Donaletti’s forearm, which was still thick from Donaletti’s Hall-of-Fame career as a catcher with the Cleveland Indians. At times like this Donaletti knew why had had walked away from the game and tons of ass in his prime to serve his country.
“I guess this would be a bad time to tell you I’m a Yankees fan,” the president yelled.
“If you were a White Sox fan I would have dropped you a minute ago,” Donaletti responded.
Both men laughed and laughed until they stopped laughing when they saw smoke and flames billowing from the helicopter’s tail.
Inside Marine One First Lieutenant Ashley Hotchkiss unwrapped her arms from around the First Lady.
“Where’s the president?” the First Lady shouted.
“Joe’s got him,” Hotchkiss said.
Both women crawled to the edge of Marine One’s cabin.
Hotchkiss looked at Donaletti. They locked eyes. Two hours ago they shared a bed. Now they were possibly sharing their last moments together. Even as the electrical smoke filled the cabin, Hotchkiss could still smell Joe’s musk on her, and when she closed her eyes, all she could see was the tightness of Joe’s pants, back-lit by awesome lighting.
“Mr. President,” Donaletti said, his bald head exposed to the elements, but not a drop of sweat on it. “I dabble in physics, most of it theoretical, but enough to know that if I swing you up towards the landing gear you should be able to grasp and hold onto it.”
“What about you,” the president asked, noticing for the first time the special way a bald head can gleam in the sun.
“We need to get you to aboard the helicopter so you can repair it.”
“I hope I can still remember my training from helicopter repair school, from before I was a surprise nominee for vice president and then the president died.”
“I do, too.”
In one swift motion Donaletti launched the president towards Marine One’s landing gear. The president grabbed on as the First Lady and First Lieutenant Hotchkiss reached down and pulled the president aboard to safety.
The president reached his hand down to Donaletti.
Donaletti shook his head.
“Sorry, sir,” Donaletti said. “I have a bad guy to catch.”
With that Donaletti let go of the landing gear, falling backwards and saluting the president as he did so. Then he released his parachute and disappeared into the night, because all of the sudden it was night.
“Do you think he’ll be OK,” the First Lady asked.
“I’m not worried about what they’ll do to Joe,” the president said, opening a tool box. “I’m worried about what Joe will do to them.”
Hotchkiss stared out into the sunrise, because now it was sunrise, thinking of Joe, wondering if they would ever again share what remained of their bed after they had gone buck-wild and shattered it to pieces from all the sex.
This is where you should definitely end your whole book, Dan. You won’t be able to heighten the drama from here. No one can.
Photo via Wikipedia