Friday, May 10th, 2013

Writing Prompt – Mistaken Identity

I got sued this week for nearly $10,000.

I received two letters in the mail from attorney’s wishing to represent me.

The only problem is, I am not the Kelly Harmon that everyone’s looking for.

I phoned the attorney who represents the plaintiff, and his assistant apologized: they were certain I was the wrong person when they filed the paperwork with the courts, but they wanted to have something in the case files while the other Kelly Harmon is MIA.

(This raises my hackles on all kinds of levels, not withstanding the fact that it appears in public court documents that I skipped town after not paying rent for a few months. But why would an attorney knowingly put false information in court records?)

But we’re getting away from the topic here: mistaken identity.

If I hadn’t proactively called the attorney on the case, I would have been served with papers. (While I was chatting with the assistant, she put me on hold to call the process server and tell him not to drop by my house.)

Being served would have opened up a whole host of problems: all of which are fun to put your characters through…but no fun to live through in real life.

I got lucky. Here’s hoping that your character isn’t!

Here’s Your Prompt

  • Imagine you’re approached on the street by a stranger who greets you as though he knows you. Instead of claiming mistaken identity, decide to continue the discussion to see where it leads. Write the dialogue and setting of such a situation.
  • Write the story from the opposite point of view: you’re the man who greets the other as if he already knows him. The twist: you know you don’t know him, and you’re trying to scam him in some way. What’s the scam? What happens?
  • Write about a character who gets in trouble because of mistaken identity (is sued, or caught by a bounty hunter and thrown in jail, or becomes the target of a smear campaign, or is beaten up by a raging family member hell bent on getting revenge for someone, etc). How does the character clear his name? How is the situation resolved?

Good luck!

4 comments to Writing Prompt – Mistaken Identity

  • A.R. Hill

    Hi Kelly,

    Yikes, how awful! And ridiculous. I would have lost my cool over something like that – I don’t care that it benefits them to have ‘something’ in the court documents, crap like that can ruin a person’s life! And it totally falls under abuse of the court system, which you *could* nail them for, were you so inclined. Props to you for handling it so succinctly.

    Glad to hear nothing came of it,
    -A. R.

    • Thanks for the support! I’m still debating whether or not to write to the folk that censure lawyers or not. Turns out that the woman who admitted they used my name and address even though they knew it wasn’t me no longer works for the law firm. I wonder why? Hhm.

  • Kelly, so sorry to hear about that. One of the downsides of having a relatively common name.
    I loved your question, “why would an attorney knowingly put false information in court records?” It is indeed a mystery, and might mark both the first and last time in history a lawyer has done something unethical, devious, disgusting, or wrong. That reminds me of [insert your favorite lawyer joke here].
    As to the topic of mistaken identity, it’s been done in fiction for ages, often to great dramatic effect. I think it’s a bit more difficult to sustain for a novel length in these days of instant communication, but I could be ‘mistaken’ about that. In fact, your current case might prove me wrong, though I hope it’s over quickly.

    • Hi Steve!

      Thanks for your sympathies. My current favorite lawyer joke:

      Q: How many lawyer jokes are there?
      A: Only three. The rest are true stories.


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