Today’s guest blog post is brought to you by children’s fiction mystery (for ages 8 to 12) author Michael Carestio.
Writing about your family and friends can be dangerous to your health.
It’s been written that writers should write about what they know. Yet, when we do, there can be serious consequences:
“Is that what you really think of me?”, “I don’t speak like that.”, “That is not the way it happened!”
Trading on family secrets and skeletons, even in a humorous and trivial manner (at least in the writer’s mind) will often result in making weddings, funerals, and holiday dinners even more intense than usual.
The great American writer, John O’Hara was banned from Pottsville, Pennsylvania when he spilled the beans on every dirty little thing he knew about everybody in Pottsville in his Appointment in Samarra. What a conundrum he faced:
Fame and fortune, or lifetime exile from Pottsville?
Almost all of the characters and even many of the situations in my stories come from my everyday life. Nothing new there. In my tales, the family lives in a big old house resting on a rocky finger that juts out into the Atlantic Ocean. The family owns the house by way of a wager won decades earlier. A friend of mine told me how his grandfather won the royalty rights from a French composer
in a card game, and those royalties fed and educated his family until the copyrights ran out. My friend, upon reading my first book, A Boy’s Journey Through Grief, demanded a cut of my royalties for using his story.
You can’t please everybody. So don’t try.
My 27-year-old daughter was upset when the editor cut her out of a book. “But it’s your book. Put me back!” My littlest granddaughter is disappointed that she isn’t in either book. I told her that she wasn’t even born when the books were written. She still pouts when the subject comes up. In Cousins & Robbers, I used my brother as a role model for a shadowy but formidable character, and he has never said a word to me about it.
If you can’t expose your family and friends to everyone on the planet who has a Kindle, what’s the point of fiction? If your best friend can’t serve as literary fodder, what’s the point?