Yesterday I read an article written by novelist Susan Johnson published in the Q Weekend publication called Truth or Dare.
Johnson discussed how her new novel My Hundred Lovers is a mock memoir – it’s the story of a woman’s life told through her body’s memories.
She says that as with her other books, she anticipates that some readers will confuse fact with fiction and mistake her actual life with her imaginative life, the world inside the book for the world she walks around in.
The main part of the discussion is centred on the strife she (and other writers for that matter) has found herself in when drawing inspiration for plotlines and character development based on family, friends and real life people she has encountered.
Johnson says ‘As long as there have been books there have been people unhappy about what is inside them’ arguing the case for a novel to be judged for what it is, not its source material.
Reading this article it got me thinking about the few stories that I have already started developing myself. I have thought up scenarios and character profiles and I will admit – these have been borne out of situations I’ve been in and people I know.
I have been slack and to be honest, only really work on these stories every other month...
For a writer, I would have to assume that personal relationships and life experiences are the obvious choice for developing material to write a book or memoir. I myself am an avid reader and I automatically assume (apart from the obvious like Harry Potter or Twilight) that the storyline and the characters have been somewhat taken from the author’s real life and adapted in a certain way to be introduced to the reader.
I am lucky enough to have a large group of friends who are all so different – I couldn’t think of a better bunch of people to create interesting and complex characters from for my writing.
In the Q Weekend article, Johnson said she was a bit apprehensive about one story she wrote that drew obvious parallels between the main character (based on herself) and another (based on an ex-boyfriend). She received scathing emails, but luckily, didn’t get sued as other writers have…
I could not imagine receiving a defamation writ from a friend who was so aggrieved at finding them depicted as a character in my book. You should find yourself lucky to be deemed interesting enough to write about!
Reading this story affirmed something in my mind – I will always write about instances and people in my life because life itself is the best inspiration for good, honest writing.
To all my friends and family – if one day I actually get any of my work published and you do think that a certain someone in the pages of my book sounds a little like you – trust me, take it as a compliment!
To borrow from Susan Johnson – ‘A book in order to become a book must be cut from its moorings and be judged for what it is, not for what it was once tethered to.’