I may potentially have a new short story in the works, which is exciting, because I’ve been feeling in a terrible rut for ideas on short fiction. But it did get me thinking a little bit. See, it’s rooted very firmly in an actual experience that happened to me not too long ago, interposed with a few altered details and some introspective reflection. The other person involved is incredibly unlikely to ever come across the piece, especially since we don’t really maintain contact, but if he did, he would likely recognize the situation instantly. He wouldn’t be the only one, either. All over the world, there are writers writing about situations that have happened to them. My mind goes back to David Sedaris and his very autobiographical works. His stories are littered with colourful characters, but the thing is that many of these characters are actual people.
What gives a writer the right to write about other people? Is it merely a price paid for associating with those writerly types?
One considers the little warning at the beginning of books and the end of films: “Any relation to any real person, dead or alive, is merely coincidental.” We change the names, we change the details, and we cover our butts. How do you go about proving that a story is about you and not a figment of the author’s imagination, anyway? We cannot be blamed for taking an inspiration from an actual event and running with it to make a story, can we?
Do we have a moral obligation of respect for the people we pass, like ships in the night, have an experience and for the most part move on, to keep them out of our tales? Or is anything fair game? I tend to lean toward fair game, myself. As writers, we attempt to mimic and recreate life through the written word, and what better way to do than than to glean from reality itself? Besides, they always do say that fact is stranger than fiction.