Inspiration for TMI Characters
By Patty Blount
When my Sourcebooks editor agreed to publish my first novel, SEND, she asked me if I had any other internet issues stories. I had a few, but none were written. When I told her about TMI, she loved it!
The ideas for both SEND and TMI came from the news. SEND was inspired by a boy put on the sex offender’s list for forwarding a sext message. And TMI was inspired by the story about a young girl who committed suicide after she discovered the boy she’d met online wasn’t real; he was a hoax created by her best friend’s mother, to get back at her for some insult. I started trying to imagine what kind of personality would take an online breakup so seriously and eventually decided it could be someone almost starved for love. The personality I originally envisioned would later become Bailey in TMI.
In my original vision for TMI, my best friend main characters were living almost identical lives but were so similar, we thought readers might have a hard time distinguishing between them. So I deliberately wrote Meg and Bailey as almost polar opposites. Meg is practical while Bailey is playful. Meg hates fashion while for Bailey, it’s her life’s blood. Meg is a very diligent student while Bailey performs only the barest minimum of work in order to pass.
But these are all surface differences. Underneath all that, my girls are still very much on the same path – starved for and looking for love. It’s the subtle ways they both respond to that starvation that form the story. Bailey’s actions are overt and sometimes, kind of desperate. She reinvents herself for every guy she dates but it isn’t until she ‘meets’ Ryder that she figures out who she really wants to be. Meg’s actions are covert – even she isn’t entirely aware of what she’s doing. She clings to Bailey because she believes best-friend-love is safe and won’t interfere with her plan. But yet she twists herself into a pretzel trying to be what she thinks Bailey needs her to be instead of listening to what Bailey wants. The more distance that forms between the girls, the closer Meg grows to Chase.
Chase, ooo – he’s a fun character, my favorite in the story. He started off as just the boy next door – a sort of walk-on character I’d planned to keep in the background until the electricity he has with Meg sizzled off the pages. That wasn’t planned on my part; it sort of grew organically from the story. In fact, it almost took over and I debated writing the whole book from only Chase’s point of view, as he observes the implosion of the girls’ friendship. As Chase demanded more and more stage time, I knew it wouldn’t be enough to draw him as merely Meg’s ‘opposite.’ He had to become her missing piece. He has as a large, noisy, interfering family because Meg doesn’t. But more importantly, he needs to escape that family to see what he can become by himself – a variation on Meg’s “Plan” and a link they share. Similarly, Bailey’s need to find her father is an extension of Chase’s Escape and Meg’s Plan – she has to know where and who she came from in order to figure out who she’s going to be. The story is about the things that hold us back as well as those that compel us forward to do just that.
I’m grateful for the opportunity to explain some of the story’s subtleties to readers.