It’s not the nicest thing to wrap the scenes of a story around a bone of contention, or to build a plot on wrong impressions. Not if you want your close ones to buy into your story and this works on both levels we ain’t just talking cash, but if you want to preserve your friends, you better watch what your pen bleeds. Besides, there’s that nasty feeling stalking writing about family. Writing about friends and people closest to you sure makes you feel like a tell-tale. It’s a tough-blot-on-your-white kind of gossip and won’t be erased, especially if the page is printed.
Write up bordering on personal experience has its demands and many writers make it a personal business to lay off such projects completely. Who wants to lay a life-long career on the line for a few squiggles? Beyond denial, some incidents are too delicate for the page, too sensitive to stray off the leaves of our private journals, if we find we have courage to record it there. If a writer does hold off publishing his thoughts, time heals better than the doctor, the characters involved may outgrow their pains and have healing of their emotions by time’s patient nursing. Then, he may write and not break a fragile heart by his craft.
Admittedly, there are events witnessed by the author or in which he was a major character, the not-so-little-issues that if written, may not crack the softest of hearts if the story was a sledge hammer and the heart brittle clay. Yet, it may be a source of embarrassment to the key players in the drama of life. The author must find a method of expressing himself, working with strictest discipline, to present his story as a work of fiction. Messing with people’s feelings is a no bounce, no play zone and is best expressed in Churchill’s declaration, a joke is a serious thing. Injecting a dose of creativity into your piece might mean a world of difference.
I believe if a character does not wish to be written about, he ought not to find him/herself on the pages of our notebooks or their personality traits tied to the unfolding of our storyline. Yet, I also think, and who says I can’t contradict myself, a writer has all liberty to explore his genius to the uttermost.
Now, if you write about people you don’t know from a can of paint, it’s a different kettle of fish altogether. You don’t have any binding obligations to be discreet if the characters are begotten of the mind, yours matter-of-factly.
If, all of a sudden, you find yourself in a rut in your role as a writer where your pen scrawls you across the No Trespassing line into other people’s private lives, I have a few tricks that will get you home and dry. Swindled from the masters by reading into the background of their stories, these tips will protect your real-life character’s privacy; preserve the kick in your scenes and of course, save your neck. It’s not the whole shebang though, you going to have to stalk me for the overdose. But these gems ought to suffice and set your quill straight.
Change the names of your characters: Using names that cannot be traced to persons, dead or alive is one effective tool for evading embarrassing moments. On a personal level and in deference to people’s feelings, even if your story is not lifted from your immediate vicinity, make a personal resolution to avoid picking names for your characters that have association with local, real people around you. Unless, you know beyond a shadow of doubt that these people won’t take your pranks with a pinch of salt. If you cannot readily place their code of ethics, it’s best to stick with less known names and steer clear of the accusations and saber rattling. Online is a chest for a list of names to write a library, or you may create some of your own.
Change the Genders: Trade sexes. The main character of the real life situation may be male, and to feature him in your adapted version as himself on gender basis, may not settle comfortably in significant stomachs. Being a lady might make your character more popular among the crowd so here’s what you do, change the genders of your story people to be acceptable to popular taste.
Change the Scene of Your Story: Taking the setting of your story out of your locality adds a different twist to the entire project. Now, all you need is some background info about your new scenery and you are good.
Switch Genres: Going for the obvious might wake the dead, drawing painful and better-forgotten memories to the fore. A little humor might be the missing link you seek. Your piece might work best as comedy (not satire) and not the horror novel the nature of inspired events may warrant. Do what needs to be done to keep your pen bleeding. This leads us to our next point,
Twist Personality Traits: Should it be in there? This bit’s like ripping out a man’s closet and putting it out there on display for a couple of window shoppers to gawk at. Except by express permission of all concerned, I believe this is one piece of cake you don’t want to chew. This is the needle pricks that precede the canon shot! Don’t kill yourself writer, let sleeping private dogs lie. Twist glaring characteristics, or swap one character trait for another. Add some and take some away, especially ones your actors may not feel too proud to be associated with. If you delve into the deep of your character’s psyche, it’s best to create a new character from scratch and let him play the role of the real individual.
What you need is the inspiration roused by the event and not the people involved. You would spare yourself much persecution, if you keep this tip at the back of your mind.
A million years ago, I was privileged to read the story of a fellow who sued a lawnmower manufacturer. The charge? Our guy tried using his mower to clip his flowers, I thought those were strictly for the lawn, well, this bright sparks hurt himself in the process. He sued the manufacturer for neglecting to add in the user manual that the tool should not be used to trim garden plants! Did he win the case? I don’t know. What do you think?
What I mean is you can’t be too careful with folks these days. Still, you must be true to your heart. And you can take a step further and fix the Publishers’ note at the beginning or the exit line of your stories. You know, the one which states,
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
In effect, don’t take me too seriously. You may find for all your troubles, your story is still unpopular in some circles. Shouldn’t let that muddle your waters; you have done all that’s necessary and know better than drop your pen to waste time pointing fingers.
Let your pen keep bleeding!