Masters tales

Family and writing

I was reading the latest Myslexia and in there is an article suggesting that you have to be brave in order to write about your family. Now I thought that this would mean only autobiography and biography books, but no – they look at all books.

We are taught that we must write what we know. Not that I take much notice. I tend to write what I feel driven to write. But I do hinge some of the happenings on simple everyday aspects that I remember.

I suddenly got thinking – are any of those family related? Have I used an aspect of a family member or friend in the character? The answer is usually no. But then the article went on to say that sometimes family members believe themselves to be an influence even if they are not. This caused me to pause. I am writing about two sisters, one a serial killer and the other the latest victim. What if this were to cause a problem. I mean, I have not written either one to appear like any family member. In fact to tell the story right I have twisted the characters to appear the extreme, almost stereotypical of their type. If I didn’t do that then the story just doesn’t work.

But, will they see themselves, even if it is unintentional? I suppose it is possible and, I think that once it is finished, I will let them all read it. That way if there are any problems I can iron them out before it goes to publication. But I can’t think about this as I write. I would end up with a stilted manuscript. So I will write and hopefully no one will recognize themselves – as they are not really in the book.

Saying that though I was writing a scene with a minor character and realized that I was getting the inspiration from a teacher I’d had at twelve, a past boyfriend and the feeling I get when I see grates in the pavement (it’s something about the pattern – just nasty). I then put all of these together and shook liberally and voila – one minor character that explains just a little more about why my killer kills.

I don’t think it matters where inspiration comes from as long as you write honestly and openly without worry. If it does worry someone then at least you can look at them and say – I hadn’t realized. For me I think I will leave that question until the second or third draft. Until then I will write as the characters come to me. 🙂


4 thoughts on “Family and writing

  1. Hi Kate, I think you’ve nailed it when you say: “I can’t think about this as I write. I would end up with a stilted manuscript.” This probably applies just as much if you were writing something much closer to home, or maybe even a biography of a family member.

    1. Thanks. I do feel that if you think about how your writing will be perceived as your writing it, the piece is never as good as when you just write. If that makes sense. 🙂

  2. It does. With fiction, of course, it is really your business where you get your ideas from, and even you may not always know. But in the unlikely event that I was ever to write a biography of a living person I’d get them to sign up for the Steve Jobs clause, which I think included that he would not read the book until after publication. [There may well have been a no-sue clause also.]

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