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Writing about things you know

(9 Posts)
fallenoverflowerpot Tue 11-Oct-11 14:27:07

I've just started writing a bit more seriously, and I can see that at some point I might want to think about trying to get something published (a long shot, I know). But I just can't imagine being happy letting anyone that I knew well read what I'd written - this applies particularly to DH, the DCs, and close friends. So much of what I write is drawn from my own experiences and those of people around me, and the thought of sharing my stories with anyone who might (well) recognise people and situations is paralysing!

Anyone feel similar? Any ideas of ways to get beyond this?

belledechocchipcookie Tue 11-Oct-11 14:50:58

I'd speak to them first and ask them if it's OK. If not, think of another plot. smile

ImperialBlether Tue 11-Oct-11 19:19:30

But are you just writing about what has actually happened to you and people you know? When they say "write about what you know" I don't think they mean literally write about events that have occurred in your own life, but more that you write about the way a character feels because you have felt that way yourself, or write about a character having a dilemma that you've once had.

The character has to be separate from you, otherwise it's a diary.

fallenoverflowerpot Tue 11-Oct-11 21:17:39

Sorry, I haven't explained myself at all clearly (bad beginning!)

What I mean is that although the story I would be telling would be fiction, it would have within it characters and episodes that could be thought to relate to my life, or to those of people that I know. And that even when they didn't (directly), people might think that they did and be upset. And worrying about what those close to me might feel if they read stuff that others might think was about them (or me!) is paralysing.

Does that make more sense?

ImperialBlether Tue 11-Oct-11 22:21:19

Well, what about using a pseudonym?

I understand what you mean. It is paralysing to think that people you know are reading your work.

The problem is that if you want to celebrating selling a novel, you have to be careful who you tell, because the minute certain people know your pseudonym, your privacy has gone.

nokissymum Tue 11-Oct-11 22:23:24

Yes, im in a similar situation, which is why i will probably never get it published.

TheBride Wed 12-Oct-11 01:50:31

I think workshopping can help alleviate this anxiety (as well as being pretty vital in terms of getting honest appraisals of your work). I am part of a writing group (mutual critique), and I actually take it as a compliment if they think I MUST have done X myself, as it shows that the writing is convincing.

I also think that the concerns you're experiencing are quite a good safeguard, because if you're feeling nervous about a certain character/anecdote it can be that you know that you haven't done a good enough disguise job and need to change more details.

However, when all's said and done, the ultimate defense is that "it's fiction. I made it all up" grin

CassiePalmer Wed 12-Oct-11 19:07:03

I know how you feel, it's the not letting people read what I've wrote that holds me back.

There's a few periods in my life that I'd like to write about but don't like the thought of other people reading. I was badly bullied at school, in a 'unique' case, that would be obvious what I was writing about. I wrote about if for a creative writing assignment and my tutor was full of encouragement for doing something with it and I'd love to do it I know I could get a good novel out of it too as I'm often told by friends that they can't believe I got through it and remained such a happy optimistic person. But it would hard to hide what it's about and the thought of people reading it, especially those involved would make me cringe. Even if I did it anonymously the events would make it obvious. I changed all the names in my assignment.

I'm thinking of making it mainly fictional, changing the situations but the main character facing the same emotions and problems (if that makes sense), making it third person may make it easier for me to write aswell.

But even writing complete ficton worries me that anyone is thinking I'm writing about them, I don't overly worry it doesn't stop me from writing. I think it was Marian Keyes who had an ex rush out and read her first novel to see if he was in it, I can imagine a few people I know doing that :D

But I think you've just got to get on with it and try not to worry about it, what would be worse someone reading what you've wrote or never achieving your dreams because you held yourself back with worry (that's what I tell myself anyway)

fallenoverflowerpot Wed 12-Oct-11 21:04:42

You're quite right about not letting oneself be held back by problems that might (not) materialise far down the road. That's a good way of thinking about things, and really helpful to me at this stage: thank you.

I'm reminded of a character in an Alison Lurie book (can't remember the title, but it's about a writers' retreat) who has similar qualms to me/you and who finds all her stories are becoming terribly trite, and thin, and that she can't bear her authorial voice. Another character makes the point that subtracting things from a situation does make it thinner, but you can also add things - to make it 'more real', in an odd sort of way. Which makes sense, now I come to think about it.

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