Thinkin’ on Thursday: Privacy and Protection

Easy as A, B, C . . . from BB

Do you often include family and/or friends as characters in your fiction? Or do you write about them in non‑fiction essays, memoirs or what have you? If so, how young are the children you may include in such writings?

I saw some great advice in author Anna Quindlen’s interview (Still Life with Bread Crumbs) in Parade Magazine on April 20, 2014. After pointing out that she’d written a lot about family in her columns, she was asked how they feel about that. (I’ve often wondered that about the hilarious columnist Robert Kirby in the Salt Lake Tribune.)

Quindlen’s reply was that all of her children turned out to be writers of various kinds, so “it can’t have been too terrible having a writer mother.” She claimed to have mostly written about her kids before they learned to read. Smooth move, Mom!

As they got older she let them “vet” anything she was writing about them. She went on to say that they never shut her down. But she also clarified that was possibly because she edited her writing carefully, being sure to keep her eye on protecting them from “unnecessary exposure.” Wise move there, too.

Do you look out for the people in your life whom you choose to characterize in a story or article? Get their permission? Or disguise them so carefully that they’d never guess they were in your writing? It’s a great thing to think about, decide about, before you have hurt feelings, or even possible legal action against your work.

I loved Quindlen’s conclusion on the topic: “Columns come and go. Your kids are forever.” And so will your friends be, if you’re careful and judicious in how you “invade” their privacy!

See you next for Spellbinder Saturday!


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