Thursday, February 25, 2016

Fiction or Memoir--Still Not Certain

Since I'm still only getting my ideas down I am still uncertain whether tell my story as a memoir  or as a fictionalized one.  The notes I've written sound more like the setup for a memoir.  I don't have very many direct quotes written down, but then again, it's hard to remember exact quotes.  But I guess this wouldn't matter even in a memoir.  Sometimes you just have to guess, get as close as you can. But that would also be true in fictionalized memoirs or fiction based on your own life.

If you regularly read my site, you may have seen the guest post yesterday by children's author Stephanie Faris.  She talks about how life informs fiction.  From her post:

It’s only human nature to draw on what we know as we create characters.

It's true many novel are based on the authors real-life experiences.  But I'm still afraid that even in a fiction story people I know will I know I mean them even if I use fake names.  To really hide someone's name you'd have to use something that doesn't sound like their real name.  But might they still be able to figure it out.  Two people in particular I'm worried about.  I'm scared of a lawsuit.  I'm just too poor for that.

I now wonder how many people were offended by reading someone else's book and seeing themselves
in the book, real name or not.  It was at one time used as a gag on TV shows.  Someone is trying to write a story and others advise that person "to write about what you know."  And when the person follows that advice, the others see that person's story and say, "This story is about us!" and the person writing the story then feels alienated by the others.  I can't imagine how this must be in real-life.  I can just see my former boss who yelled at me and a girl I hated for a long time being able to figure out I was talking about them, even if I don't use their real names.  In some cases, I can't even remember the names, and think the people in question wouldn't be able to guess it was about them.   If it were another person, and they disguised me in their book, I might try to confront them about it (if I can), but I can't afford to sue.  Even so, that won't stop others from doing so.

1 comment:

Ann Bennett said...

This is a conundrum in writing a memoir. People are allowed privacy unless they are public figures. You would really need to consult a lawyer. I have wanted to write about my sister's schizophrenia and problems with her getting treatment. It would be great for people who have a family member diagnosed. But in telling the truth, there would be people crying foul.

Personally, all of my fiction is fiction. Yes my life shapes my opinions, characters, etc. But no, none of the characters are people I know. Furthermore, I have stopped having the desire to use names of people who have caused me problems in life like Michelangelo painted the Pope as the devil on the roof of the Sistine chapel. I recognize many very fine people also share the name and other reasons I should not do this.

In the end, it is you who must decide. After you write the story, you may see the need to publish it. If you do, consult a lawyer.