Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Achtung baby--creative sparks may be flammable

I'd be lying if I said my fictional characters weren't inspired by real people. The key is inspired--I'll hear a funny phrase (wif Ruf) or see someone striking (a slender blue-eyed boy in pink sneaks) and my imagination ignites--a scene, a fragment, a creative spark that excites and motivates me.
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Recently I immortalized a real person in a quasi-fictional piece. It was self-serving, I get that. I was exploring my own curiosity at the expense of a rather bewildered friend. I'm not a fictional character, he said gently, when I demanded why he hadn't read the whole piece. I'd imposed my analytical ego on him, I realized, turned the coolest of provocateurs into the object of mundane inspection, as though his looks and words and beats--as though he himself--were mine to examine and manipulate. How did I trespass so blithely? I guess because when I'm writing, I'm god, and everything is material for a new world.
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So, I apologized and made him tear it up, but I'm worried: is this is an unforgivable infringement, or the kind of thing that can weather a friendship in a good way, like a broken-in leather jacket or retro Puma kicks?
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As a side note my weekly story submissions roll on. The rejection I got yesterday noted Your story made it past the first reader, try us again. A no, but minus the slap. I'll take it.

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