Monday, April 6, 2009

Mining Personal Gems

Award-winning author of The Chameleon Chronicles, Beth Ciotta, is my guest Over Coffee today.

Readers and writers both often wonder where an author gets their ideas. How to build believable characters that ring true and resonate with their readers. Where does a writer get the needed inspiration for realistic characters?

Today, Beth shares with us how she finds her inspiration for believable characters.

There’s a saying: Write what you know. Writing about something you’ve experienced—a job, a tragedy, a thrill, an encounter with certain personality types—lends authenticity to your tale. That’s not to say you shouldn’t research and write about what you don’t know. Why box yourself in? But if you’re ever stuck for an idea or material, consider the value in mining your own buried gems.

Evie Parish, the featured heroine, ALL ABOUT EVIE, EVERYBODY LOVES EVIE, and EVIE EVER AFTER, is a veteran performer—like me. Her struggles and triumphs within the entertainment industry ring true because they’re based on my own experiences and emotions. The same goes with her body-image issues as an over-40 woman living in a youth obsessed society. Because I’m personally keyed into these subjects, I write about them with an honest passion.

No matter your occupation, age, or personality there’s something within you and your history that will strike a chord with readers. I wasn’t always over forty and I couldn’t always support myself on performance gigs. The other day I thought about some of the odd jobs I've picked up over the years to make ends meet. Each one of these inspires an idea for a story or at least a character within a story.

1. Car hop waitress at a hot dog stand (developed an addiction to root beer and chili-cheese dogs)

2. Front desk clerk at a dry cleaner (Man, it's HOT in there! All that steam. Hmm.)

3. Sales-person at a men's clothing store (That employee 40% discount killed me. Spent more than I made. Although I did learn the 'correct' way to fold clothes)

4. Music teacher at a Catholic School, K-8 (Love kids. LOVE 'em. Except for that one out-of-control 5th grade class that made me cry.)

5. Entertainment Coordinator at Resorts Casino (My first taste of being on the supervisory end of entertainers. Whoa.)

6. PR Coordinator at Tropicana Casino (Perks? Learning how to write a press release, and escorting VIPs around the casino. Gary Sinese comes to mind. What a doll!)

7. Secretary/Assistant at two different entertainment-booking agencies (Something I was really good at, but didn't feel it was I was meant to do.)

On the subject of writing what you don’t know, I also have some dream jobs.

1. An ongoing job as a character at Disney World (Snow White's my first choice. Although I'd be happy with Cinderella.)

2. A travel writer (Getting paid to write about exotic foods and locales? Come on!)

Now it’s your turn. Name one real job and one dream job. I’m betting one
or both could inspire a fascinating tale or character. We’re all brimming
with personal gems. Sometimes you just have to dig.

Storytelling comes naturally to award winning author, Beth Ciotta. Limiting herself to one sub-genre does not. Dubbed “fun and sexy” by Publisher’s Weekly, Beth specializes in writing Romantic Comedy with a Twist of Suspense and is published in contemporary, historical, and paranormal romantic fiction. Beth’s latest release, EVIE EVER AFTER, is the third in a series with HQN Books and is currently earning rave reviews. Into the Wild, a romantic jungle adventure, is set for release in 2010. Look for these connected stories from HQN Books.

Beth lives in New Jersey with her husband, a zany dog and one crazy cat. To support literacy, Beth works at her local library where she enjoys hawking books almost as much as writing them. To learn more about her chaotic life visit her website at and her blog at


~Sia McKye~ said...

I want to give a warm welcome to Beth! Thanks for joining us Over Coffe.

It will be fun to see what some real and dream jobs listed. :-)

Beth Ciotta said...

Great to be here, Sia. But you didn't name a real job and dream job of YOURS. :)

~Sia McKye~ said...

I've had lots of different jobs as a kid and in college I did cashier work, made pizzas worked as a clerk in a department store, drove a bus. One I enjoyed and was a dream job at the time, was working one summer on a horse ranch when I was oh, i8? Or close to that. The couple raised Appaloosa show horses. I got to feed, exercise, and groom. They also had a herd of nanny goats that I helped milk. Lots of hard work but I enjoyed it.

I was Voc Rehab counselor for 15 years and promotion/marketing rep. Dream job, now? Being published.

Margay said...

Real job: Aerobics instructor (B. C. - Before Children)

Dream job: When I was younger, I wanted to be a ballerina (no kidding) - and a writer, of course!


Beth Ciotta said...

Sia, lots of 'gems' in those real jobs! I bet you experienced some interesting things (people) as a bus driver. Especially love your stint on the horse ranch. How exciting!

Beth Ciotta said...

Margay, those are certainly diverse and interesting jobs. I can easily see how both of those 'jobs' could provide a wealth of material for stories. Nice!

Margay said...

That's just the top of the iceberg, but it was so early this morning when I posted, they're the only two I could come up with!

Some other jobs I've held:

1. Waitress
2. Nursing home assistant
3. Aerobics instructor
4. Clerk at an insurance agency
5. Temporary assistant for computer company
6. Paralegal assistant for a lawyer
7. Data process at an insurance company (different one)
8. Babysitter (for family and later in life, via an agency)
9. Administrative assistant at a computer company


McMama said...

Hm. I haven't held that many jobs. Here they are, in all their glory:

1. Nurse's aide in the pediatrics ward of our local hospital. (After school job during high school.)

2. Rate clerk for high risk auto insurance company.

3. Programmer for a statistical study of court dispositions of various criminal cases. (Summer job during college.)

4. Software engineer.

5. Housewifery and motherhood.

5. Community volunteer, mainly for schools. Long time math tutor.

6. Data base maintenance for a large non-profit organization which raises money for pediatric cancer research. (Part-time, seasonal, and occasional.)

Yikes. I had no idea my resume was so thin. :-)


Judi Fennell said...

*waving Hi to my RT Panel-mate, Beth.

I've had too many jobs to count. Favorite one was Meeting Planner - travel to gorgeous 5-star hotels and have people do my bidding. Bad part - had to do the Incentive Trip winners' bidding.

Dream Job - I've got 2. And they both involve Orlando (which, actually, I'm not all that thrilled with since I hate the heat, but for these jobs, I could live with it). I want to be Cinderella (so you can have Snow White, Beth) or a dolphin trainer at Discovery Cove in SeaWorld. One of my kids is thinking of going the SeaWorld route in real life, so I can do it vicariously.

Margay said...

Or you could write about it, Judi.

Diana_Duncan said...

Real Job: Bank Teller. Got robbed by cute & charming bank robber. Seriously. That incident inspired my first published book (Bulletproof Bride.)

Dream Job: Auditioning Hunks for Cover Models. LOL!

~Sia McKye~ said...

Cathy, darn, I so need you out here or me out there. son could use a math!

~Sia McKye~ said...

Judi, what a surprise, you as Cinderella. It's that sparkly gown isn't it?

ooo, I'd love to do a stint with the dophins and all that lovely warm water. Cool idea for the kid tho, :-)

~Sia McKye~ said...

Di, I thought you were already building a portfolio of hunky cover models?

Beth, this woman has corrupted me. She forced me (LMAO) to start a hot hunk file. Before Di, I was sooooo sheltered. lolol! (I gotta bridge for sale too, might have to travel to the Mojave to get it...)

As for characters from interactions from work? Yah, more than a few, I might say. I loved working with the horses, the stallions were so gentle--especially having worked with over totosteroned, not always nice, thourough bred stallions.

Beth Ciotta said...

What fantastic stories waiting to be told. Thanks for sharing everyone. Will reply at greater length when I get home from my current day (and Dream) job--the library. :)

Beth Ciotta said...

Margay and McMama, that's quite a list! Lots of fun posibilities there. Multitudes of real life experiences that afford you the ability to write with authenticity on several subjects. I like looking at each of your jobs and wondering what's the most absurd things that could happen in that field on a given day. A fun workout for the imagination and inspiring to boot!

Beth Ciotta said...

Hi, Judi! Guess I'll be seeing you very soon. Looking forward to RT!

A Meeting Planner, huh? I'm not sure I know what all that entails but the traveling to 5-star hotels sounds grand. :)

As for your dream job... Okay. You can wear the glass slippers. We both get handsome princes so little else matters. LOL

Beth Ciotta said...

Hi, Diana!

Seriously? Robbed by a cute and charming bank robber??

You win. :-)

Kat Sheridan said...

Wonderful article Beth! I've had very few jobs. I was a waitress as a teen (the world's worst ever waitress), I did receptionist work as a temp job (the world's worst receptionist), and I've been in just about every position in information technology over the last 26 years. Sia will attest that I have a few "characters" in my office! Dream job? Mysterious, elegant baronness, secretly publishing my romantic memoirs, thinly disguised as fiction!

Beth Ciotta said...

Ah, Kat. The 'world's worst ever' anything is inspiration enough for a cool character. ;)

As for Dream Jobs, I'm thinking I need to dream bigger! I'm jonesing to fill your baronness shoes!

~Sia McKye~ said...

Oh yes, Kat has a few real characters at work, lolol! She would make a wonderful Baroness...

I've always thought filming wildlife would be a cool job to have, ala wild kingdom. Today most of it is a lot of observation with those brief moments, but still watching a pride of lions have babies and watch them grow? Or observing other animals like wolves or little one like racoons,beavers, pairie dogs, you name it, etc give birth. learn more of their ways, to me that's always been fascinating. Of course there are the bugs, rainstorms, the cold the heat, camping. Maybe when I was in my late 20's and 30's...

VA said...

Real job: asst. project manager for construction development

Dream job: sailboat charter captain

~Sia McKye~ said...

Nice dream job, Vivian! Wah-hoo!

Houston A.W. Knight said...

Real jobs - Modeling - International model and the music business (singer), both great jobs.

BUT my dream job was to be a writer and now that I'm no longer working, my goal is to make my dream job a reality as a published author.


s.w. vaughn said...

Tag! You're awarded! Check out Murder by 4 for details. :-)

And I love your Over Coffee posts!

~Sia McKye~ said...

Thank you Mz. Vaughn, ma'am! :-) Nice of you to say so.

~Sia McKye~ said...

I want to say thank you to Beth for being with us Over Coffee. I provided the wonderful coffee, and Beth provided the fun and that's the kind of day I like.

Beth, I wish you and "Evie" the best. Thank you for the fun topic and I loved the fun answers!