Sunday, September 6, 2009

Setting Boundaries

Unknown--Antonio Ortiz Echague--1882-1942 My sister told me a hilarious story the other day. It was so funny. She and I had such a big laugh over it!

But I can’t share it. She’d have my head. The story involved something silly that she did that had unexpected consequences.

She has a reasonable expectation that I won’t share it with a bunch of mystery or blog readers.

I don’t always keep interesting stories to myself. Pretty is as Pretty Dies has one story in it that’s absolutely true. The book club listed in the book? It exists. Or…well, it used to exist before it disbanded. You can tell from my book that it was a querulous group—and my insight into the group came from a friend who was letting off steam.

I asked her if it would be okay to use the material, somewhat fictionalized (there were no men in the group). She gave me her blessing.

The gnomes in the book came about when a friend complained about her neighbor’s yard art. Which I immediately went inside and wrote into my book.

My children (the darlings) make it into the blog quite a bit. But they don’t have to worry that I’ll be splashing embarrassing photos of them or putting their names out there on the internet. I’ve promised my family a certain amount of privacy---which they deserve. There are boundaries, definitely.

There are some fascinating stories I know—they’re not happy ones, though. And they’d hurt people who’d certainly see the parallels between their lives and the fictional characters’ lives. No one else would, but they would know. And that’s enough to keep me from ever fictionalizing it.

Things I tiptoe around:

Leave personal tragedies of friends, family, and acquaintances alone or else completely generalize them. Obviously, some tragedies are universal (loss of a spouse, child, job, etc.) But singular events that would be immediately recognizable to the parties involved—those I don’t touch.

Ask permission to fictionalize stories that friends provide me. They’re sure to recognize their story in print, no matter how distorted it might be. I don’t have enough friends to risk losing the ones I do have.

Things I don’t mind using:

News stories are completely within my limits. I do change them around with “what if” scenarios.

I steal names like crazy. Sorry folks…it’s fiction. Unless you have a copyright on your name, it could end up being mine. I need waayyyy too many character names in each book.

A reminder:

Anyone remember reading Thomas Wolfe’s novel You Can’t Go Home Again? The writer who writes about the residents of his hometown until they start driving him away? That novel was semi-autobiographical.