Monday, November 26, 2012
The People I Know
I don’t write to make others happy, I write because there are stories to tell. Sometimes my writing evokes an emotional response, and so far the strongest reactions have come from my family. The thing is, it’s never easy to predict how friends and family will judge my books and stories. Usually, when I give a copy of my work to someone I know, I wonder the usual things. Will he like it? Will she want to read more? It was my brother who asked the question I later discovered my entire family wanted to ask. “Who are your characters?” I didn’t know what to say. “They’re, um, the people in the story,” I said. “No, seriously, who are they? Which one is me?” he asked. Uh oh. Time to disappoint him. “None of them,” I told him. “I made it all up.” “Really?” he asked. “I spent the whole book trying to figure out who was who.” Everyone has heard the saying ‘write what you know’, which is perhaps the reason my brother assumed my characters were based on real people. But here’s the thing I know: I know humans. I know we are mean, funny, pretty, jealous, happy, ugly, grief-stricken, foul-tempered, judgmental, giving, carefree, uptight, stingy, nice and sometimes just plain crazy. And, don’t forget litigious. Writers don’t risk a lawsuit just to put you in a book when we can create someone just as interesting, put them in uncomfortable situations, kill them, bring them back to life and kill them again. And it’s all legal. The cruel sibling that lurks in my subconscious knows how much fun it would be to give my brother a vague answer, to let him pore over my work, wondering. But there are two reasons I won’t do that. First, it’s not true. And second, I like my brother too much to do that to him. I’m not so sure what I’ll say to my cousin, though.