For the sake of fairness, I think anyone who moves in with a writer should be given a disclaimer. “Dear Potential Character for Many Things I Will Write,” is how it should begin, if we’re being honest. Since we’re writers, however, it would probably start, “Dear Beloved, Whom I Shall Memorialize in Many Ways.”
At my home, this can become a tricky issue because I primarily write non-fiction. If you’re writing fiction, you can honestly say, “Oh honey, I know this character is a lot like you, but it’s not you. See, he cheats on his wife and has a horrendous mole, and you’re faithful and mole-free.” In my case, I can’t use this defense. My husband has seen his name in my writing for twenty years now, and for the most part he takes it in stride. However, in the past few years, he’s started to become more conscious of the possibility that all sorts of things he says and does wind up in my work, and if it’s embarrassing or funny, the odds are really good.
My son noticed this early on in life. He started saying, “Don’t write about this! You do not have my permission to write about this!” at a rather tender age. Then both of them started asking, “You’re not going to write about this, are you?” from time to time.
“You never know,” I tell them.
About a week ago David and I were talking about a subject which I cannot reveal. He was telling me something that I can only tell you was hilarious, because the moment I said, “Oh, this would be really funny to write about,” he turned serious.
“You are not allowed to write about this!” he said. “I’ve got to draw the line somewhere! And writing about __________ is it!”
Obviously, I’ll be forced to write fiction at some point so I can continue shamelessly exploiting my poor husband and still honor his request.
Do you see why writers should give non-writers a disclaimer? “Dear Beloved, I know that over the years you will grow tired of seeing yourself in print, extra so if I am published. Please know that when you allow me to creatively use you in my work, it only increases my chances of publication, which is a good thing for everyone. You may not understand why it would be good for you if I am published, but you must simply trust me. Besides, why should I be forced to make things up when I have you? When you allow me to share your exploits with the world, it enriches my writing. Let me just apologize now for any future problems this may cause. With all my love, your writing partner.”
Picture courtesy of Armin Hanisch at http://www.sxc.hu/photo/806152