Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Not My Story To Tell: A Question Of Ethics

I was thinking last week about how I'd like to write a book. Now, we should all bear in mind the fact that the remainder of this entry is pretty much irrelevant because I have neither the time nor the motivation to actually accomplish such a task, and even if by some miracle I did, it would never be of the quality that would be published, or read by anyone. 

So the rest of this is pretty hypothetical. 

I was thinking about how I'd like to write a book. And I'd like to base it on true events. It wouldn't actually be a true story, it would be a work of fiction, but it would be inspired by real people and real events. Part of this is because there are few things I know as well as the things I have experienced myself, and part of it is because, let's face it; I can't make up things half as entertaining as the shit that actually happens to me. 

But every time I think I'd like to do this, I come to an interesting stopping point. There are people in these stories who aren't me. And there are parts of these stories that are about them, and not me. Would it be right, or fair for me to tell these stories, even under the guise of fiction? Some of them are things that were told to me in confidence. Others are things that were told by friends of theirs, without their knowledge. I can't verify the truth of these things, and I can't ask most of these people how they'd feel about it.

But then, would they ever know? It's a work of fiction. They don't ever need to know that a character was inspired by them. They don't need to know that the reason the situation sounds so familiar is because it was, in fact, their situation that I was writing about. And as I said before, the odds that any of them would ever see it anyway are so, so low.

It shouldn't be a big deal - I talk about people on my blog all the time. I relate stories, and quote things that they've said to me. But I guess I never really talk about things that I feel they'd be uncomfortable with if they saw them. I don't think anyone who has been mentioned on my blog would be really angry or upset with me if they saw something I'd written about them. (With the exception, perhaps, of Prince Charming, but he has forfeited that right.) 

And yet, I'm still uncomfortable with it. I still feel as though it's not my story to tell. And is it? I'm not sure. So I don't write it. 



  1. I feel like much of art is taking the things of others and making them your own. At least in music, it can be blatant like hip-hop sampling or it can be subtler, but I don't think it's possible to write without using the ideas of others. Not exactly the same thing you were talking about but since I believe that artistic ideas only have meaning because of the other artistic ideas you bring to them, then there's no real reason you shouldn't take that all the way.

    Err sorry if that isn't coherent. Feeling a little off.

  2. Just have a disclaimer at the beginning ;]