It’s You

It’s You

“I read your story last night,” she said.
I could tell by the bizarre look in her eyes, that something that just wasn’t right inside her head. Something in the story, maybe? She didn’t like it and just didn’t know how to tell me? I decided not to wait for her to tell me. I decided to push the issue.
“So,” I said, nursing a cup of coffee at the dinner. “What did you think? Did you like it?”
“Yes,” she said tentatively. “I did.”
Oh but there was more just beneath the surface of that statement. She may have liked it some, but there was something in it that she didn’t like. I couldn’t wait to find out.
“What’s wrong?” I asked her.
“I did like it,” she said. “I just didn’t think you’d actually ever do it.”
This took me aback a little, especially now that I had no living idea what she was talking about. I pressed her once more.
“Do what?” I asked. “What are you talking about?”
“I didn’t think you’d put me in one of your stories,” she said.
Now that she had clarified, I was more confused than ever. I hadn’t put her in the story at all. She had never come to mind even once when the idea of the story was conceived, brainstormed, planned, or written. She was convinced that I had…and there was more.
“Especially,” she said again lowering her voice to feign insult. “In such an unflattering way.”
Now I can no longer contain myself.
“Elaine!” I demand. “What are you talking about?”
“I am talking about Gina!” she said. “The girl in your story that is about me! You know! Gina, the pathetic whore in denial, who sleeps with nearly every man she meets, but still manages to look down on the other women around her that do the same thing! That is the Gina I am talking about! You may as well have named her Elaine!”

Okay, the above is a made up story with its details rooted in some real encounters. It doesn’t happen often, but sometimes, when a person reads a book or a short story, they see a character in that story and identify with that character. Since they know me and I wrote the story, it is a natural assumption that I was writing about them.
So, I will make the disclaimer once and for all. I never, ever write stories specifically about people I know. My characters are composites of everyone I meet, read about, listen to, and see, but they are never wholly one person I know.
I also make no judgments of my characters within the context of my story. They are there to serve a purpose. If I need a hooker, then I create a character that is a hooker. If I need a priest, then I create a character that is a priest.
Here is disclaimer #2. If you read a character in my story that somehow make you see yourself in a bad light, then it is an indictment on the way you see yourself and not my story.
Disclaimer #3. This disclaimer is not about anyone in particular, especially no one I have met in the blogging world.

Have any of you who write fiction in any way run into the same thing? I am curious to know.

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About timkeen40

When I was seven, I opened one of those little Golden Books (Lassie) and started copying the words down on paper and it set my soul on fire. I have been writing ever since. I don't know where this is going but I invite you along on the journey.
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29 Responses to It’s You

  1. Tracey says:

    I totally write people I know into stories. I tell everyone that they may get sold out in print one day and that they’re just going to have to deal with it. I’m ruthless for literature.

    • timkeen40 says:

      I use just about everyone I know in some way, but I have never been good at taking a person I know and writing them in. I am glad it works for you, though. Thanks for coming by and visiting.

      Tim

  2. nrhatch says:

    Excellent post, Tim. And, not only has it happened with fiction, it’s happened with non-fiction.

    People are so self-conscious that they suffer from paranoid delusions. 🙂

    From Toughen Up:

    Every time we open our mouths to say something, we run the risk that someone we aren’t even talking about will CHOOSE to mis-interpret our comments by viewing our words as a direct personal attack on them.

    Does that make their hurt feelings our fault?

    Should we keep our mouths clamped shut to avoid hurting the feelings of overly sensitive paranoid narcissists who view everything as relating to and revolving around them?

    Are they (and their thin-skins) our responsibility?

    http://nrhatch.wordpress.com/2010/10/05/toughen-up/

    Quote to live by: Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind. ~ Dr. Seuss

    Thanks, Tim!

  3. Bodhirose says:

    Very interesting post, Tim. I can see how this could happen. I realized too that people may zoom in on one particular trait and think the character is entirely about them. Could get tricky–but then again that’s why there are disclaimers!

  4. myne Whitman says:

    I am a writer too and like you, I can’t use just a single person for one of my characters. Not only do I not want to hurt them but my creativity doesn’t work like that. Most of the fiction I write is from the composite of my experience and world view not individuals.

    First time here and I just read some of the other stories. I look forward to more.

  5. suzicate says:

    #2. If you read a character in my story that somehow make you see yourself in a bad light, then it is an indictment on the way you see yourself and not my story.
    Exactly sometimes, reactions say more about the person accusing than the person being accused!

  6. lesliepaints says:

    I don’t write but I love this post! I am a constant reader and I find myself everywhere and anywhere in books. I think it is fascinating how a writer tailors his/her knowledge of character and I’m chuckling all the way back to my blog about this one. Perhaps, Elaine should just walk away from that story content in the fact that some aspectof her caught your attention enough to think she might make a “good” character. I would like to see what a writer could do with me and I wouldn’t care what he/she made me out to be. It would just be fun!

    • timkeen40 says:

      Leslie,
      I am glad you stopped by and also very happy that you liked what you read.
      As far as you being a character, I can’t imagine that, at some point, this whole blogging experience will trigger some kind of story. Everything I do usually does. Pieces of you and everyone else I read will no doubt be there.

      Thanks for stopping by!!!

  7. I don’t write people I know into stories, either. It’s funny because my husband read my current ms and said, “Wait, which one am I?” He was so disappointed to learn I didn’t write him in. His first revision suggestion: add a character like me and make him fly. Uh huh.

  8. meirozavian says:

    Interesting post, love to read it.
    Have a nice day.

  9. I write on different subjects that I do find people will assume are about personal experiences and often they are not. I was seeing a writer whom I know wrote about me and situations we had been going through but he often denied this to be true. I think this is a tricky topic as some writings can be offshoots of reality but so close to be one’s reality and it is hard to differentiate between the two. A writer’s life complicates relationships at times…hmmm

  10. Carl says:

    First, you got me going. I thought you were in big trouble! I thought that because I have been there. I am usually shocked at the perception, and it is usually an indictment of the person’s self-image.

  11. Tom Baker says:

    Great read! I think, like you said, people see themselves in all sorts of things. We judge others by the way we are or things that have been done to us. Very interesting post! I came by to thank you for continuing to frequent my blog.

  12. While I was reading Elaine’s remark about why she thought Gina was based on her character, I was thinking to myself, “Oh, so that’s what she thinks of herself!” It’s true what you said in your second disclaimer. If a reader sees herself in one of your characters, then how she views that character is how she views herself or an aspect of herself. A reader can’t blame the writer.

  13. jammer5 says:

    Oh, hell yes it happened, and to great discomfort. I wrote a poem titled, High Maintenance Hell, about a girl I once dated. Another girl I knew accused me of writing it about her, which it wasn’t. I never could convince her of that, and it ended a relationship. The bottom line is I guess that’s a good thing because I really hate high maintenance people, and I didn’t consider her one. Weird.

  14. Jessica says:

    I think all writers, be they schoolkids doing homework or published writers composing their next novel, base their charcters on people they’ve met or seen or even read about themselves. Consciously or subconsciously. Just like our own lives are made up of interactions we have with others.

  15. Tammy McLeod says:

    I think this is one of most crucial issues in writing. And, although I know many will disagree, there will be some things that I will write but never release until they are gone. I’ve even had it happen in interviews where I’ve said something that my family didn’t necessarily like.

    • timkeen40 says:

      Tammy,
      I think the family are the ones that look at your the hardest when you write or try to be creative. Or maybe is it that, as writers, we just feel them looking and ingore others?

      Thanks for coming by,
      Tim

  16. ladynimue says:

    It made a good read indeed .. and yes, even I some days relate to others’ posts but then thats natural .. there is a huge set of natural emotions and ideas .. once in a while, some aspect of you might get mentioned somehere ..

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