I have (so far) based a fictional character on a real life acquaintance just once. And in doing so, I discovered that writing someone you really loathe into a novel is amazingly satisfying and cleansing!
Vamparazzi is the fourth novel in my Esther Diamond urban fantasy series, published by DAW Books (the sixth book in the series, The Misfortune Cookie, was released last month; in between them was #5, Polterheist). Esther is a struggling actress in contemporary New York who gets involved in various supernatural misadventures. In Vamparazzi, she has a supporting role in The Vampyre, an off-Broadway show which is a (wholly fictional) stage adaptation of the (real) 19th century story by Dr. John Polidori.
The eponymous lead character in the show, i.e. the vampire (or vampyre), is played by an attention-seeking D-list celebrity who attracts throngs of vampire groupies and paparazzi. During Halloween weekend, when vamparazzi hysteria around the theater reaches its height, there is a mysterious murder by exsanguination. Esther Diamond's efforts to keep the curtain from coming down on her show bring her into contact with crazed vampire fans, anti-vampire activists, real vampires, and an ancient cult of ruthless vampire hunters. Meanwhile, a skeptical cop who is Esther's ex-almost-boyfriend is convinced that she may be the killer's next target.
I had a lot of fun with this story in multiple ways. One of the best ways involved taking much-needed revenge on a former neighbor of mine.
Back when I was plotting Vamparazzi, I was living in an apartment complex and had a very troublesome next door neighbor. I had filed multiple formal complaints against her with the management of that complex. Crazy Girl (not her real name) was the noisiest person I've ever known. Her shrieking hysterics, tearful rages, and foul-mouthed fits regularly woke up me at 2:00 AM and went on for an hour or two. Virtually all of Crazy Girl's screaming tantrums and profanity-laced hysteria occurred when quarreling with her visiting boyfriend. They had a relationship that made mob wars look peaceful by comparison, and the fights were as frequent as they were noisy and melodramatic.
Thanks to their volume, I know that Crazy Girl found her boyfriend unreliable and untrustworthy, that she believed he lied to her and let her down on many occasions, and that she often doubted whether he really cared about her. I know the squalid details of her many grievances against him precisely because she constantly screeched them at full-volume right outside my doors and windows, usually in the middle of the night. And this went on regularly whether or not the boyfriend was there, since Crazy Girl frequently enacted her half of these noisy late-night quarrels on her cell phone.
Indeed, even when not shrieking at the boyfriend, Crazy Girl lived with her cell phone glued to her ear, yammering about her petty complaints and gripes in a voice like a foghorn—also right outside my doors and windows. Her voice, yakking non-stop on her cell, regularly penetrated every room of my apartment except my bathroom.
Even when she was inside her own apartment, instead of on my doorstep, she often screamed so loudly at her boyfriend, either in person or on the phone, that the noise came straight through my walls. Crazy Girl was also prone to fits of physical violence in which she'd throw things around her home so ferociously that it would make my apartment shake.
Well, even after Crazy Girl moved out of our apartment complex (to go move in with that same boyfriend—pity their poor neighbors!), the stress she inflicted had become so habitual that I couldn't shake her off. I kept flinching in expectation of a screaming fit penetrating my walls. Every time someone passed my windows, I braced myself for wailing hysterics. At night, I kept listening for a sudden tantrum of building-shaking violence.
Until finally, to exorcise this demon that lingered even though Crazy Girl was now gone... I wrote her into Vamparazzi as Mad Rachel, a shrieking, wailing, foul-mouthed, self-obsessed actress who shares a dressing room with my exasperated protagonist, Esther Diamond. Mad Rachel lives with a cell phone glued to her ear, engages in constant screaming matches with her boyfriend, ignores repeated reprimands for disrupting performances of The Vampyre with this behavior, and has such noisy hysterics in any crisis that even hardened New York cops and bloodthirsty vampires can't cope with being around her.
And you know what? It felt great to write this. It was some of the most fun I ever had at the keyboard!
It also banished the ghost of Crazy Girl at long last. Having my protagonist convey to readers what it's like for her to share a dressing room with Mad Rachel, eight shows per week, relieved the burden of stress that I was still carrying from having unwillingly shared my living space with Crazy Girl for two years. It also gave me psychological closure (and great satisfaction) to inflict on Mad Rachel the well-merited indignities that, alas, I could not inflict on Crazy Girl in real life (well, not without incurring a lot of complications and possibly a police record).
There is, however, one drawback to this very satisfying conclusion to that noisily tawdry chapter in my home life. I suspect that when people read the book, they may find Mad Rachel too extreme to be believable. And they will think this, ironically, of the only character whose behavior I have ever based entirely on that of a real person.
Vamparazzi and the other Esther Diamond novels are available wherever books are sold, including the most recent release in the series, The Misfortune Cookie. You can find the author on the Web at LauraResnick.com.