Imagine a woman with dwindling funds who lives alone in a house. She decides to write a book under an assumed name to bring in money. But, only able to write what she actually knows about, she creates a small town and peoples it with everyone who lives in her real life. The fun begins when the people in her town recognize themselves.
This is the plot of Miss Buncle’s Book by D. E. Stevenson, published in 1936. It’s a gentle story (reminiscent of Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day) that starts slow and then speeds up for an amusing ride.
But who of us writers hasn’t used characteristics of people we’ve known or just seen in passing? The problem here for Miss Buncle is that she was extremely clear and detailed. I still think it was astounding that anyone recognized themselves, since I’ve read proof of living people fictionalized on the page who never noticed their own faces staring back at them. Perhaps it was the overwhelming obviousness of every character in Miss Buncle’s story that hit her little town like a sledgehammer.
That would have been scandal enough, but Miss Buncle got creative and her characters changed, behaving in unexpected yet logical ways that set the real town on edge.
I’m not going to give the ending away. Go read the book!