Skip to main content

too much information

writers are often advised to write what they know. there’s a good reason for that: if you write about what’s famailiar, even if it’s a detail buried completely out of context, your connection to the material comes through, something that readers can usually spot (even if they’re unaware of it) and relate to. however strange the setting, from whatever far reaches of the imagination your characters are drawn, if it’s done properly, the reader will identify with the real.

while i never had a problem inserting incidental elements of things that happened to me or that happened to other people i know into a story, i had until the last couple of years avoided putting anything beyond an incidental mention because, like most people, i had subconsciously never thought of what happened in my life as being tale-worthy.

i won’t say the pendulum has entirely swung in the other direction, but at this point pretty much everything i write has at least some moments that are based not just on a belief or an idea i can relate to, but on an honest, factual series of events.

not all of these things are directly from my experience, though. a lot of the time, i just like to include things that people tell me, because they’re stories that stick with me and i think that they deserve to be told, or because i will hear something that perfectly illustrates a theme that i have already waiting. rarely, these are things i get from strangers- something overheard on the bus, something i find mentioned on the internet, something i hear third or fouth hand. but a lot of times, the stories i appropriate don’t come from strangers, they come from the people who are closest to me in the world. and that may be a problem.

if someone took things that i told them and put them out there, in the world, out of context for other people to look at and judge, i’d be mortified. i apparently don’t have these qualms about doing the same to other people and, what’s worse, some of the things that end up in what i write, while they’re always in service of the story, are pretty much naked of disguise for those who know anything about the individuals involved. so at what point does appropriation become too much information? at what point am i obliged to ask permission, or, in the case of more sensitive details, find something else that works in the story?

i’ve included some pretty personal details of things that have happened to me in my writing, which is fine, because i can handle the exposure, but what if those events weren’t things that happened when i was by myself? if i’m telling a story about something that happened to me and my mother while we were on vacation, it isn’t only my story to tell, but hers. does that give others the right to censor what we write because it’s uncomfortable for them? or if they make the acquaintance of a writer, does that make them fair game? (i’m picturing my life where all of my friends refuse to speak to me about anything except the weather.)

none of this would bother me if i didn’t think i’d have a problem with someone doing the same to me. as it is, i’m haunted by the idea that i’ll be able to find a publisher for a first novel and at my book launch, someone who trusted me will walk up and punch me in the face. it could happen.

Comments

as long as you're here, why not read more?

eat the cup 2018 :: welcome, comrades!

even regular followers of this blog might be surprised to learn that the longest-standing tradition on more like space is not tied to politics, makeup, mental health or even writing, but sport. i started the quadrennial eat the cup "challenge" [in quotes because i'm not actually challenging anyone but myself] way back in 2006 as a way of combining my growing love of soccer, my love for cooking and my still-new blogging habit. i determined that, as i followed the world cup, i would cook dinners to honour the winners of different games, meaning that the meal would, as far as possible, feature traditional dishes from those nations. in subsequent iterations, i started to do dishes that were combinations of different winners from the same day or, as the competition wore on, combinations of the different combatants.

finding certain ingredients can be a challenge, even in a diverse city like montreal [and i live on the cusp of some of its most diverse neighbourhoods], but what…

mental health mondays :: alarming

we have a huge mental health problem. it can be solved and that will take work on a lot of different fronts. people are killing themselves in astounding numbers. people are killing themselves at a greater rate than at any time in the last twenty years and the situation is getting worse. relationship problems, financial struggles and [or course] mental health issues all contribute to the staggering rise, along with a number of other factors. there are no rules about who kills themselves, although there are some groups where the risk is higher.

improving mental health care, reducing the desperation that financial struggles can cause, and finding effective ways to deal with problems like substance abuse take time because they require larger scale action, but relationship-building is something that is built from the ground up. so while we're all calling for change on a larger scale, it is at least somewhat mollifying to know that we can do some things that make a difference without h…

jihadvertising?

i keep seeing this ad for tictac candies:



am i the only one who finds the suicide bomber clown at the end a little unnerving? all the nice natural things like the bunny and the [extinct] woolly mammoth and the fruit get devoured by a trying-to-appear-nonthreatening-but-obviously-psychotic clown who then blows himself up. congratulations, tictac, i think this ad has landed you on about a dozen watch lists.

oh and by the way, showing me that your product will somehow cause my stomach to explode in a rainbow of wtf makes me believe that doing consuming tictacs would be a worse dietary decision than the time i ate two raw eggs and a half a bottle of hot sauce on a dare.