“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.