Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Work With Me Here

I have never collaborated with another writer or even considered doing so.  The idea and opportunity have just never presented themselves. The closest I’ve come to collaborating on fiction is to interview real live folks who are willing to share their experiences to lend authenticity to a story. 

So many people have stories to tell, but unfortunately, most industry professionals will tell you there’s no market for memoirs or autobiographies unless you are a celebrity or in the national news in some way. That doesn’t mean people don’t have amazing experiences to share. 

This creates difficulties of its own.

The biggest difficulty is in presenting that you are using their experiences to bring integrity and depth to the story but you’re not writing about them specifically.  This gets very muddy and awkward when people don’t see this clearly and can’t detach themselves from the facts they are sharing.  No matter how many times you emphatically insist that you are not writing about THEM, they may not see it until they read the finished product (after publication) and may or may not be disappointed.  Or angry.  They may feel disappointed or betrayed because they didn’t understand (or didn’t want to understand) that this wasn’t their story. Sigh.

It may help if you share a little about the character as you go along, the direction you are going and perhaps the outcome, if you know what the outcome will be before you reach the end.  And even then…

Happily, people are generally gratified to be part of the writing and creative process and recover from any disappointment or misunderstanding when they see their names in the acknowledgments.  Hooray for acknowledgments!

We would love to hear if anyone has had experience – good or bad – in interviewing real life folks for fiction or has been interviewed and can give some insight.


Jan said...

For one novel I was working on (since put on the back burner), I asked the staff of a particular department at the Children's Hospital (people I was well-familiar with) what their reaction would be to a particular scenario. I had explained it was for a character in a book and everything, but somehow they missed that part and went into a panic, wanting to help this poor woman and her child. Even after I explained two or three times that the woman did not exist, it was just for a book I was writing, they were still somewhat overwrought. Next time I will try to make it even clearer, I guess!

Latayne C Scott said...

Most of my experiences collaborating have been positive. But you know how just one thing can make you sour on an experience? In my book, "Why We Left A Cult," I interviewed and then wrote the story of a woman who was of, shall we say, a certain age. (Harrumph. I was in my 30's then, and she was the age I am now. A youngster.) But she had lived a lot of places, so to "anchor" her story, I mentioned the places she'd lived. (Information she provided of course.) When she got the account I'd written of her life, she said I'd made her sound like a hobo. I was astounded Turns out she (Iike most of us) just wanted the good details, that would make her look good, in her story. And she thought this would make her look bad, and she wasn't going to have it!

End of story-- I had to rewrite her portion and she did indeed only "look good," which all fiction and non fiction writers know means she wasn't believable. Shot herself in the foot. Nobody loves perfect people except Jesus.

Debbie Fuller Thomas said...

Latayne, you were very gracious to rewrite it. Her friends and family know the rest of the story. :)