There’s a little bit of real life inspiration in pretty much everything I write, and I’m sure that’s true for nearly every writer. Every story I’ve written does have at least one moment, scene or setting based on reality.
I wrote the Bridgetown Trilogy when I was working at the Yankee Candle warehouse, and while there aren’t specifically any scenes that take place in such a location, it did inspire a few ideas. For instance, the brief mention of Hallera, a planet where people live within instead of on its surface, comes from when I worked second shift and would look out from the dock bays into the deserted semi-darkness of the rear lot at 11:30 at night. There’s also a newer character in MU4 whose day job is working behind the scenes at the Bridgetown Nullport. Several names in the trilogy are Tuckerized from former coworkers in one way or another.
It also explains why the trilogy also had a lot of characters whose day jobs weren’t high-status and they specifically enjoyed Life Outside of Work. Those who were high-status were there for a reason, and their jobs tied in with the story in one way or another. Call me blue collar if you will, but those office job characters never really sounded like much fun to write to me. Even Diana Meeks in In My Blue World, who crunched numbers for a living, didn’t necessarily like her job and it’s barely mentioned.
Being that I live on the much quieter northwest side of San Francisco and currently work at a supermarket, I’m sure that the world of retail might make its eventual appearance somewhere in one of my projects, whether it’s MU4 or something else. One might see retail as drone-like as office work — you’re just another easily replaceable number, apparently — but there’s also a much closer connection to the Outside World that office work doesn’t always provide. Interesting and unique customers and locals become inspirations for characters and background crowds the more you interact with them. Vendors and delivery drivers become secondary characters with unsung but important roles that could help you out of a tricky plot twist. Coworkers once again get Tuckerized as street names and, if they’re interested enough (like many of my YC coworkers were), they’ll ask how the story is coming along.
There’s something about being a little closer to a community at this level that helps me feel more connected to the characters I create. There’s a shine to them that pulls me closer, wanting to know more about their personal lives and how they interact and interconnect with others. It might not be as glamorous or as high-paying as some of my previous positions, but I’ve become rich in other ways whenever I embrace that kind of connection, and that makes all the difference to me.