Whether or not it could be considered a good thing, Laura McPherson had her father’s mouth. She fingered the small heart-shaped pendant around her neck as she gazed out the airplane window. Her father had given her the necklace when she was six; ten years later, all she had of him were the locket and his unfortunate mouth. Not a phone number, or an email address, or any way to get in touch with him. Nothing that could prove that he was even still alive. Just a necklace with the kind of gold that washes off, and lips that were too big for her small face.
The opening paragraph of Getting to Perfect, a young adult novel I wrote in 2010
(This is my favorite opening to anything I have ever written.)
Write what you know. That's one of the most famous writing cliches. Everyone has at least one book in them—that's another. But pulling inspiration from real life doesn't have to involve every torrid detail of the author's past. Sometimes inspiration can center around something small, one quirky little attribute that ends up being a recurring theme.
I have my father's goofy mouth, humongous lips and prominent teeth and all. I got teased about it quite a bit growing up, and even after four years in braces, I'm still sometimes hesitant to fully embrace my smile. I've been asked if I've had my lips done, to which I must laugh in reply. As if I'd do this to myself. Everyone's got their hang-ups—things about themselves they don't necessarily care for regardless of the input of others. The grass is always greener, so they say.
Laura McPherson can't help but to see her father every time she looks in the mirror, her reflection a constant reminder of the man who's been absent from her life since she was a child. My insecurity has become her insecurity, but it has its own significance for this fictional character. I took something simple and turned it into a story, and it is one of my most beloved pieces.
Write what you know, but save some of it for the next book.