Wednesday, September 14, 2011
My Fiction Day - "Is This Me?"
But what about the parental figures? The boss figures? The friends and business acquaintances? The neighbors? I keep getting asked if I wrote about somebody, and I always say, "This is a work of fiction."
We draw from life's experiences for our writing, and in the back of minds we hoard ideas. So when a person has a funny way of walking or holding his hands, we apply it to a character. The way they sashay into a room, or flop into a chair. The way they eat lunch, or how they drink only one kind of beer. We extract reality and infuse it into make-believe.
I found myself forever changing characters around, in an effort to remove any and all doubt that anyone would think it was him or her. The ex-husband looks and acts nothing like mine in real life. The office workers...the same. The children...deleted and redesigned (thus the girl in lieu of a guy).
It's a fine line we walk as story-tellers . . . the line between what we know and what we create. On the blog "Mystery Writing is Murder," Elizabeth Craig writes about Hemingway, and how he alienated some friends by clearly writing about them . . . and insulted his wife by not writing about her. But then her post spun into the same concern I had . . . that people she knew would take issue recognizing themselves, or pieces of themselves.
Per Ms. Craig: "For me, it’s more fun to take lots of small bits of different people and make it into a sort of Frankenstein’s monster of a new character. That way I’ve still got the solid traits that I can easily describe, but I’m not drawing too much from one person."
Oh my gosh, I felt better. I'd done just that. I'd Frankenstein'ed all my characters without knowing it. Whew.
Wait, what if like Hemingway's wife Hadley in The Paris Wife, the people I know get upset that I DIDN'T give them a character in the book.