Friday, August 14, 2009
Stealing the Words Out of Your Mouth
By Libby Malin
When a dear friend commented to me that she was reading my book, Fire Me, two emotions immediately coursed through me in quick succession -- joy and panic.
Joy because I was delighted someone I loved was going to read the book. Panic because I couldn't remember if anything in the book drew on any experiences I'd had with this friend!
Don't get me wrong -- I'd never reproduce any real life experience in a novel in a malicious way. But most writers do end up drawing on real life experiences as a springboard at least for the imaginary tales they tell. I'm one of those writers. An overheard conversation, an observation about an attitude, an experience that's odd, funny, or poignant -- any of these could find its way into one of my books.
It's not that I transcribe real life conversations verbatim. But if they stick in my head for some reason, I might pull them forward when just the kind of mood or temperament they typify is called for in my story. I'll embellish the "real" and expand on it, maybe enhancing it to make it more attractive, bigger, better...or less so.
So I sometimes find myself worrying if any of my characterizations or dialogue will end up seeming like a mirror to friends or relatives who might recognize some glimpse of something....vaguely familiar.
But "vaguely" is the key word here. Even a perfect person or a perfectly beautiful situation can be shaped by the writer into something that suits her particular story.
Someone once mentioned to me that she'd seen a tee-shirt with a message that went something like this -- Be Careful What You Say. I'm a Writer.
I might just have to go find me one of those!
Have you ever worried someone might recognize bits of themselves in your stories? Or have you seen yourselves in your friends' stories?