Posts Tagged ‘responsibility’

I am writing a travel memoir. Most of it is about me, obviously, but there are a few key “characters” that come and go from the tale. I am struggling a little bit with how to deal with them.

Do you kiss and tell?

First of all, I have changed their names, and occasionally melted two or more real people down into one character in the story, but it is hard to know where to draw the line on exposure. I am trying to keep other characters as a distant tertiary focus to (a) myself and my own journey and (b) the places I visited. I don’t want to use other people’s stories as key elements in my narrative, but sometimes they are/were key elements. In particular I am worried about exposing too much about lovers and longer-term travel companions.

Is anyone else grappling with a similar dilemma? Should I talk to them first? Let them read what I’ve written? Completely fictionalise the characters in my story? Or just publish under a pen name and hope they never wise up? Advice please!


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Do you remember those twistaplot books for kids? You know, the ones where the protagonist (and reader) would reach a critical junction in the narrative and must make a choice about how to react or choose which next step to take. Depending on the decisions made the narrative would unfold in various directions, more choices would be offered, more paths taken, until you reached one of several pre-determined endings. Don’t you think life is kind of like that?

The eternal question: where do I want to go?

Today I am facing my own twistaplot decision point – I have been offered two roles at two great organisations and now I must choose between them. Great, right? Well, yes, I am in a pretty lucky position. But at the same time it is hard – what if I choose badly and live to regret it? The truth is I am an eternal optimist and am fairly confident that, whatever I choose in life, it will work out well, or at least that I will make the best of it.

It got me thinking though, don’t you think it would be cool if life, like a twistaplot, allowed for re-reads and new decisions and experimenting until you found the narrative outcome you most desired? That would be cool. The living life, unlike the writing life, does not allow for rewrites (well, I guess it does, but not easily). Maybe that is what makes it so thrilling to be alive, making blind decisions and hoping for a happy ending.

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I’ve recently returned to my native shores and now find myself involved in the thrill of an employment-slump job hunt (joy!). I have made an organisation-values list and have been adament to stick to it. But here I am, one month in, with a few interviews under my belt and still no job offers. I have been considering broadening my job-seeking horizons, but really want to stick to organisations that are working for positive change in our community. The problem is that the not-for-profits are probably those hardest hit by this global recession, and hence the shyest in the recovery phase. There simply are not that many jobs on offer!

"Please don't do a reference check"

I think I will stick to my ideological guns, but the whole process of “putting my best foot forward” lays awkwardly on my shoulders. While I would never dream of out and out lying on my resume, I am fully aware that most people flex their creative writing muscles shamelessly on job applications, plumping up dull duties to sound oh-so-important and using industry acronyms to prove they have what it takes to survive in corporate bullshit slinging sessions (AKA “meetings”).

I admit that I partake. But, I wonder, how much bending of the truth is too much? When does creative flair in your non-fiction simply become autobiographical fiction??

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Us writers must be power-hungry freaks, right? Here we are, night after night, scribbling away in notebooks, penning masterpieces (we hope), creating worlds on the page. We create characters out of thin air and ink, dictate the paths along which their lives wander, choose their lovers, their careers, and even their names. When we tire of them we may even terminate their inky existence with a flutter of fingers or a tap on the keys. The power is, well, total.

They say that with great power comes great responsibility. I’m struggling with my responsibility.

What to call you, what to call you, damn it!

Today I have been trying to name my key characters. It’s harder than you may suspect. You don’t want to give them anything too obvious, too ordinary, too out there, or too obtuse. I don’t want the other kids to tease them in the playground. I don’t want the readers to taunt them with cruel nicknames. I don’t want to call them Mary or Bill (sorry to the bazillions of Mary/Bills out there). I feel like an expectant mother… it feels like just maybe all the success (or failure) of the operation could just hinge on the perfect name.

I thought about naming them after favourite characters I’ve read, but Raskolnikov is perhaps just a little too Russian and Lolita carries such a connotation these days. Maybe I’ll save those gems for my real-life kids.

I thought about naming them after great historical heros but meh.

I tried to think about the connotations of names and tie them to the character traits of each player. It’s not that easy to do. Maybe I should look at a book of names and their meanings…

Does anyone have any good advice for naming characters?

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