A Man’s Ruin and My Two Bartenders

Over the weekend, writing in yet another cafe, a slice of my life slid into a slice of my novel-in-progress and led to a gleeful moment.

I have a character (the dog owner I mentioned in a previous post) who’s a bartender. His name is Alan. I also have a bartender in my real life: Ben. He’s not truly “my” bartender, but he’s the closest I have to a regular purveyor of alcoholic beverages.

Over the weekend, I began writing a scene featuring Alan. As soon as I started, I realized that I was calling on my observations of Ben the Bartender, especially regarding an interesting comment he’d made about hearing what he wanted to hear from behind the bar. In other words, he’s privy to many a private conversation as he’s going about his business. As customers, we assume that bartenders aren’t paying attention, don’t we?

This tidbit was the perfect perspective from which to have Alan overhear snippets of a conversation that he misinterprets until later events clarify their true significance. I didn’t know I was going to do this until a paragraph into the scene. And I wouldn’t have thought of this if not for Ben’s comment, which was good insight into the world of the bartender, little did I know it at the time.

That was cool, but the best connection occured a page later when I realized I needed Ben’s tattoo. It was the perfect device by which to hint at Alan’s backstory, which is troubled indeed. I’d been wondering how to further that aspect of his story arc.

Ben’s tattoo is called “a man’s ruin.” This tattoo is a beauty that encircles his forearm with images of men’s temptations: women, drugs, booze, gambling, and so on. Poor Ben, with me watching him in an unseemly manner. He’s a good-looking guy, but there was also something else at work — connections being made that only became apparent over the weekend.

Serendipity plays its part in my creative process. I don’t know how many times I’ve read, heard, or met someone that set my synapses firing. These connections between my real world and my imaginary world are found treasures — I get excited; I might even clap my hands in glee — that feel like magic.