Finding inspiration from sucky people

On Monday I started a new temp job, working as a secretary at an insurance agency, the part with adjusters who handle filed claims (and the resulting lawsuits).  It’s not bad, as far as temp jobs go: a variety of clerical tasks, no automaton data entry, very little interaction with the public, snacks at my desk, etc.

The best part, however, is the stories.  Oh my God, the stories.

I don’t think I signed a confidentiality agreement, but even so, I’ll keep it vague.  Here are some things I’ve learned so far, that I intend to weave into stories:

  • Insurance fraud is hard to pull off, but that doesn’t stop people from trying.  Like someone who “broke his back” in a fender-bender that barely scratched the vehicles’ paint.  And the high school dropout will always assume that he’s smarter than The Man; any attempts to prove otherwise will be written off as a conspiracy of him vs The World.
  • People are stupid and willing to believe anything the person they love says, including that pregnancies with twins last 18 months, because there are two of them. Yes, someone actually bought that.
  • People are greedy.  They’ll sue their kids, their elderly parents, and their best friends if they think they can get something from it.  And sometimes they do it just to spite them.
  • There’s always a very good reason for the incident, and it’s rarely the fault of whomever’s it really is.  You got drunk, ran a stoplight, and plowed into a pedestrian?  Well, the road was slick.  He came out of nowhere/intentionally jumped in front of your car. The breathalyzer test was faulty because The Man is out to get you.
“I swear, officer, the old bastard had it coming.” (photo from Flickr)

It’s a lot of negatives, I realize, but sometimes it’s useful to have a reminder that there really are a lot of stupid, greedy, manipulative people out there.  Not bad people, necessarily; people who put their own interests ahead of everyone else’s.  And sometimes those can be the worst villains, because they’re ordinary, believable people thwarting your MC’s goals.

Do you prefer your villains evil or mundane?  Why?


  1. I think it depends on the story. Sometimes, I really like having someone to hate. Other times, I like to be able to feel sorry for the poor guy who isn’t trying to be bad, he’s just kind of in the way.

  2. Great idea to pull inspiration from a strange temporary situation. When I was a substitute teacher, kids would tell me so much more of their life history than they do now that I’m their everyday teacher. The fact that they don’t have to spend 18 weeks or a year with me, freed them to expunge their souls. I got a lot of material that way.

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