Stealing facts to make fiction

Many years ago I read something that my sister had written. While I enjoyed reading it, it concerned me and the first thing I said to her was, “I knew you always thought I was gay!”

You see, the younger sister in her piece was gay.

She laughed and said she didn’t remember ever thinking that. She said it was fiction.

One of the greatest terrors of showing other people my work is wondering if they will notice when I have borrowed parts of them to make new people. Or, even worse, if they will see something that is purely fictional and wonder if that is how I see them.

One of the interesting things about writing A Perilous Margin was seeing the fiction overtake the reality with each draft. I no longer feel there are parts of it which closely reflect people I know, and I guess that is one of the reasons I knew I was ready to publish it. While vague characterisations will always exist, I don’t think anyone will think I used them, especially not negatively.

But then I remembered what I thought about my sister’s work, and I realised people will always look for themselves when they know the author.

Lithub recently published an article which features court cases against writers by angry family members and friends who felt their identities had been taken and used maliciously.

As I am just beginning this writerly journey, I’m not sure how I feel about that. On one hand, I believe I have little control over what I write. On the other, publishing is entirely within my control. Perhaps it is a fine line I need to learn to walk, the line between finding inspiration in the people around me and respecting their right to privacy.

By Alison Theresa

Writer in progress. Australian in Birmingham. MA student at University of Birmingham. I write words and sometimes people publish them. I am working on my fourth (and fifth) novels.

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