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View Full Version : Hypothetical question for all you writers out there



mreilly19
11-28-2012, 05:24 AM
Hi all, I'm a 40-something guy about 85% of the way through my first novel, a mystery/love story about a 22 year old guy and his girlfriend. I started this book as a short story 20 years ago, and it lingered in a drawer until earlier this year when I dug it out and resumed working on it. I was pleasantly surprised to find it motivated me enough to turn it into a book.

The story has a female lead partially inspired by a girl I knew in college (Kara). I didn't date her, but she was a an acquaintance and we worked on a paper. We just fell out of touch the way people who vaguely know each other do. As I began writing the story again I suppose I weaved some elements of what I remembered about Kara into the character of my story.

The story then took off in my head and, as many of you can probably relate, started to become almost as real to me as the universe we live in (this actually has caused me some problems remaining focused appropriately on each universe, which will require better handling strategies for the next novel). Naturally, I started wondering what happened to Kara and thanks to the magic of social networking I found she's now a prominent journalist who works for a progressive organization doing good works.

I'm planning on releasing my novel as an e-book when it's done. I'd love to drop Kara a line and say "Hey, I actually wrote a book partially based on what I remembered about you from college." It wouldn't be to try connect with her inappropriately - I'm married and so is she, and living in different parts of the country. My only motive is that I would think someone would think it was pretty cool that they were the source of a character in a book. In some way it seems wrong NOT to clue her in; that's a pretty unique thing, wouldn't you say?

On the other hand, I am also aware as a guy this could be a pretty creepy move. If the tables were reversed I would be pleased if Kara notified me she'd written a book with a character that had been based upon me. But I tend not to think like everyone else so I am not the best judge of what's appropriate.

Overall I'm leaning towards "No" since my first goal is to not do the wrong thing. I definitely do not want to cause Kara alarm that "OMG some guy was obsessed with me for twenty years and finally put me in a novel." I didn't think about her at all until I began the story, and that was as part of a writing exchange with a friend.

Anyone else been through this or have any words of advice? Thanks in advance!

veinglory
11-28-2012, 05:26 AM
I would suggest just dedicating it to her. That is sweet and non-specific. She can make of it what she wants.

Cliff Face
11-28-2012, 05:50 AM
Yeah, I'd go with a dedication as well.

It does seem sort of creepy to me to write a romance about a girl you barely knew 20 years ago, and tell her about it. I mean, if she inspired a character, that's fine, but to tell her about it seems weird to me.

My main worry is what you already said - she might think you were pining for her all these years.

Good luck with your novel!

leahzero
11-28-2012, 09:03 AM
Overall I'm leaning towards "No" since my first goal is to not do the wrong thing. I definitely do not want to cause Kara alarm that "OMG some guy was obsessed with me for twenty years and finally put me in a novel."

That is exactly what I would think if I was her.

Don't do this. It's super creepy.

I don't suggest you mention her anywhere in the dedication or acknowledgments, either, if the character is indeed so heavily based on a real person. That's also creepy, and by some twist or turn could potentially open you up to legal action.

Just let it go. You know the character is based on her--no one else needs to (well, except everyone who's read this thread :P). Let her take on her own life in fiction. Don't try to conflate reality and fiction here. It won't end well.

ETA: Every writer draws from real life. Most of us never tell what we're using, how we changed it, how accurate it is, etc. It's not "unique"--it happens all the time. That's why I think it's supremely creepy to "clue her in" about this--it seems there's more reality than fiction in this for you, which concerns me. I think it'd be best for you to just let it go.

mreilly19
11-28-2012, 04:19 PM
I agree with all these perspectives; no notification regarding the inspiration would be appropriate. This helps me lay the idea to rest without my mind second-guessing me. I think part of my motivation here is that I still can't believe sometimes I'm actually getting the story DONE after all these years.

I spend a lot of time thinking about the tiny elements in our lives which lead to other events down the road (e.g. passing acquaintance fuels a character in a book 20 years later). This is one of the themes of my story, actually. Seems to me that managing the line between fiction and non-fiction is what's in order here, as I mentioned. I appreciate the advice!

DeleyanLee
11-28-2012, 07:54 PM
The other thing to remember is that you're basing the character of your present interpretations of memories of your impressions of someone else. That doesn't mean that's who she was or how she thinks she was. It can be very disturbing to discover other people's impressions of you when it may contradict your own impression of yourself.

I'd dedicate the book to my present spouse, or whoever supported me the most in the writing of the book. This old acquaintance might have inspired a bit of the character, but my spouse is the one who had to deal with me during the writing presently and deserves that recognition.

mreilly19
11-28-2012, 09:34 PM
Excellent point. This is why I knew this forum was the best place to ask, since there are like-minded folks here. :-)

The character HAS evolved quite a bit in fact. She's had to, since 20-year-old vague impressions aren't enough to fill a 195K+ word story. As I think about it, I started the character based on that girl I knew - physical appearance mostly - but she has become an amalgamation of many different other females, some realistic and others less so. It's interesting how this works; a few mannerisms of a female friend of my wife and I are also thrown into the blend. My wife herself is represented pretty well too. In fact, I've included some funny stories about my wife's past (kicking an ex-boyfriend out first thing in the morning) and even the scar on her leg as part of the character's background.

The book is dedicated to my wife who has definitely had to put up with a lot as I've been writing it/zoning out while planning it. I've figured the best bet is to adjust my own mental picture of the character and realize she's many different people, any and all I can (mentally) credit for inspiring me, but the only person who should actually receive the recognition is my wife. Kind of like seeing a rainbow and understanding that all colors should get equal weight, not just yellow or red.


The other thing to remember is that you're basing the character of your present interpretations of memories of your impressions of someone else. That doesn't mean that's who she was or how she thinks she was. It can be very disturbing to discover other people's impressions of you when it may contradict your own impression of yourself.

I'd dedicate the book to my present spouse, or whoever supported me the most in the writing of the book. This old acquaintance might have inspired a bit of the character, but my spouse is the one who had to deal with me during the writing presently and deserves that recognition.