Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Writing Lab: On Writing About Others

Prompt: "Do you write about other people? Do you think it's fair game to write about others without asking permission if they're part of your story?"

I'm not sure if this is addressing my blogging or my fiction writing, but either way, the answer's exactly the same. I absolutely do write about other people. To be totally honest, I find it impossible not to.

I'm a big believer in the "write what you know" approach, so everything I write under my own power these days is incredibly personal whether it sounds that way or not. If I'm not writing directly about myself and the actual people I know and have crossed paths with, then I'm writing about characters that are strongly based on real people. Probably to enough of an extent that the people in question would easily recognize themselves if they were to ever read the material.

And yes, I absolutely believe it's fair game to write about other people. There's an Anne Lamott quote I really like that addresses this. Something to the tune of owning your stories and telling them no matter what, because people need to treat you better if they're worried about how you'd describe them in your writing. That really sums up how I feel in a nutshell. As for asking permission, why would I bother? The story of my life is 100% mine and anyone that's at all familiar with any of my writing already knows that I tell it and then some. I'm not going to write something just to smear someone's name or anything, but you can trust that whatever picture I do paint will probably be unflinchingly honest for better or worse.

That said, I don't know why anyone would ever dare treat a writer badly if they're concerned about this type of thing. Especially if you're talking about a writer that publishes public or semi-public narratives based on life in whatever form. I also don't know why it really matters one way or another. Surely people realize that those they've crossed paths with speak of them aloud to other people. Why should writing it down be any different?