Or: I recognize that bit of sausage!
Recently, I was reading a few friend’s books – Sabrina Chase’s Soul Code, and Cedar Sanderson’s Possum Creek Massacre. (They’re both very good books in their own right, though if you haven’t read the earlier books in the series, there’d be a bit of a learning curve to get up to really enjoying it.) And knowing both authors, I’ve been around for their lives the months before and during the writing… and so I started seeing bits of pieces of real life incidents, accidents, hobbies, and conversations that I recognized converted into fiction.
This isn’t unusual, and both ladies have enough craft that I still enjoyed the stories a lot, not getting thrown out of them. It doesn’t always happen that way – for example, I don’t know Charlie Stross from Adam, but one day while reading a book of his, I blinked at the page and said, “This is slashdot’s front page, aggregated and presented as a future world.” (I lived with sysadmins, network admins, and coders, so slashdot was something that was always around, in those days.) Once I saw it, I couldn’t unsee it… the entire book’s worldbuilding was an aggregate of about 6 months of slashdot. I could start anticipating reveals and twists, because I remembered the upcoming news stories and memes. Ruined the series for me.
As for Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman’s Dragonlance books: they were entertaining fiction, but even on the first readthrough, I could tell when they were really a fleshed-out log of a D&D campaign, right down to characters fading in the background not for story sense, but likely because they were absent that session. (The best D&D movie I’ve seen in Dead Gentlemen Productions’ “The Gamers”, which cuts back and forth between the players and the in-world campaign, for hilarious effect and “we’ve all been there” situations. If you haven’t seen it, highly recommend.)
Since all of you here know authors (you hang out here), and some of you are authors who know authors, I thought I’d throw this at you: when have you recognized real life and enjoyed it, instead of it throwing you out of the suspension of disbelief? When has it thrown you out? What makes the difference?