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?
The upside to writing about people you know is when they like it. Your aunt introduces you as, “My nephew, the author.” Everybody wants to contribute:
“Hey, remember that time on Million Dollar Pier with you, me, and Frankie Four Fingers? Put that in your next book.”
So, go ahead, burn a few bridges, get scratched from the Christmas card list, or touch someone’s heart for seeing the best in them. I think that friends and
family are fair game for an author struggling for a story.
Questions for writing about friends and family
What are the rules for ratting out friends and family?
How much is too much?
Do you change names to protect the guilty?
If somebody gets really pissed off at you, do you attempt to placate them with the promise of literary immortality, or just run away?
What have been your experiences?
Thank you, Michael. That was fun. I promoted a friend of mine (from a Manager to a Director) in one of my stories. She loved it.
Michael Carestio is Philadelphia born and bred. He spends his summers with friends and family ‘down the shore’ in Margate, NJ. A graduate of Bishop Neumann High School and Temple University, he is an advertising copywriter, currently with the renowned Will Eye Hospital. His granddaughter, Riley, is the model for the leader of the crime-fighting cousins. You can find more about Michael and his writing from:
- Website: http://www.blackjackjetty.com
- Twitter: https://www.twitter.com/downbeach
- 1st prize: $50 Amazon Gift Card, and an autographed copy of Cousins and Robbers
- 2nd prize: $25 Amazon Gift Card, and an autographed copy of Cousins and Robbers
- 3rd prize: $10 Amazon Gift Card, and an autographed copy of Cousins and Robbers
- And you can find the giveaway on Michael’s Facebook page here – http://tinyurl.com/lbh9alh
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