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October 6, 2010

Writing About Family

I write fiction. Sometimes snippets from my real life slip into that fiction. Snippets = hair color, annoying mannerisms, tics, weird phrases, funny stories, emotions, maybe a name or two. I have never written an entirely real person (or even a caricature) into any of my (publishable) stories. No matter what my father might think. Why? Because even though I have dreams of one day writing about my family, I do not think they would appreciate everything I have to say.

Memories are fickle beasts. I remember my childhood one way. My sister remembers it another. My father, still another. My grandparents...well, they weren't around very often, so what they remember is probably based on pictures and stories told from my parents' point of view.

The reason I mention all this is because memoirs are essentially soft autobiographies wherein the writer tells his/her life story (or at least bits and pieces of it...hopefully the interesting bits and pieces). So chances are, the writer's family will be coming along for the ride whether they want to or not. (Hopefully, they want to.)

And while my family is interesting (really, whose isn't?), I just can't write about them...

...at least not until they've passed on from this life to a better, happier place where they can't shake their fists and me and say, "You evil, evil child! How dare you defame us in this manner!?" Not that I'd be defaming them. Really. Truly. I would write mostly nice things. But it's the other things...the not-mostly that I'm worried about.

So you tell me: Would you consider/Do you write about your family? If yes (and you're feeling brave), who? If no, why not?

10 comments:

Elle Strauss said...

I make a point to keep all people I know up close out of my writing. At best I'll take bits and pieces from a few of them and turn it into one fictional character.

Though I have been known to use it as leverage when someone's misbehaving--you're going to end up in my next book!

Misha said...

I don't think I'm brave enough to write about my family.

We're a complicated, fierce-willed, short-tempered bunch when together.

It also won't help that I'm the only family member tolerant of most of my faults...

Shannon O'Donnell said...

Ha ha. Well, you already know that my MS is based on my son. In fact, all three children have a role. Writing about other family members would give me greater pause, though. Adults don't enjoy it like kids do. :-)

Catherine Denton said...

I have debated this very thing MANY times. There's part of me that wants to tell my version of truth through my stories. But as a Mom, I keep wondering...would I be okay with that?

So I haven't. Yet.

Making Life a Work of Art!

Adri said...

I've been dying to write about my family, but more about our history than the people in it right now. My grandparents and great-grandparents went through some amazing events in living in Europe during WWII and getting involved in the resistance movement. Those are the moments I would like to record for future generations. Now that only my grandmother is alive on that side of the family it seems even more urgent to write as many of her memories down as I can...

If only there was some more time..

Bethany Mattingly said...

I write some things that have actually happened to me, but in a way that is different from my characters. I don't think I could write any sort of autobiography even when everyone is gone, besides at this point, my life isn't interesting enough. :)

Jemi Fraser said...

I don't write about real people at all. Too scary! the repurcussions are frightening :)

Kathi Oram Peterson said...

Writing about real people can be dicey.

I have used some personality traits of people I know and given them to characters that don't look at all like the real people. I mean, there's only so many quirky mannerisms out there and it always nice to tag a character with one that you like. But that's as far as I've taken it. =]

kwbrayton said...

I would be fascinated to know what you would write about me - the good, the bad, and the ugly! And for the record, I never have, nor will I ever call you an "evil, evil child". I don't have to agree with you on everything, but I've never intentionally disrespected you or anyone. Sadly, not many people in my life really get that. Most just thing I'm an ogre.

Ye Olde Man, warts and all.

KLM said...

Oh, dear. No. Never would write about them. No one would believe me anyway.

It's funny, many times in stories, if you suggest cutting something out, people defend a character or a character's attributes by saying, "But that part was true. I actually know someone exactly like this." Somehow the real inserted into fiction comes across as MORE inauthentic. Not sure why that happens. Maybe it's simply to help us avoid law suits. :)