They say writing’s therapeutic, cathartic. They say that if you have issues, writing is a way to get them out. Writing as a form of therapy, or reprisal.
Sue Grafton is a famous example:
“For months I lay in bed and plotted how to kill my ex-husband. But I knew I’d bungle it and get caught, so I wrote it in a book instead.”
When I’m giving talks, I usually joke that it’s a great way of obtaining revenge – if someone really annoys me, I kill them off in a book. And I say that, since I’ve long since run out of people who have pissed me off sufficiently, I now take requests like a kind of literary contract killer. It always gets a laugh.
But, I’m careful in how I do this when I’m actually writing, and often the recognisable features of my victims are recognisable only to me. A private joke. A private satisfaction, if you like.
But what if they’re not recognisable only to me?
I was talking to someone recently who was faced with a literary dilemma. A member of his family had written what purported to be a novel, but populated it with characters clearly drawn from his own life and portrayed in the most unflattering terms. The writer has taken real events and added his own dark spin – a hinted-at piece of moral turpitude, the sly implication of a cheated qualification.
But what do you do about it without causing horrendous rifts within the family?
You might ask, what does it matter? Surely very few people are going to actually see or read this novel? And, at one point, you would have been right. After all, no traditional publisher would touch something they thought was going to land them in legal hot water, regardless of whether the quality of the writing was of publishable standard.
Enter the internet.
Anyone with something to say can be published to the world at the click of a mouse, and so it was the case here. The book was out there, albeit briefly, for anyone to read a sample or buy in its entirety. The person who felt most damaged by this was, as you can imagine, unbelievably upset by it.
But what can he do without tearing his family apart even further?
OK, ‘Rati, what would YOU do?
Apologies for this week’s post being a short one, but I’m somewhat under the weather. I’ll be back to respond to comments whenever I can stand up. Meanwhile, this week’s Word of the Week is phoney, meaning fake. It comes from the Gaelic, fainne (pronounced ‘fawnya’) and means a circle or ring. In the 18th century, some Irish gold was not considered the genuine article, so gold rings from Ireland were called ‘fawney’, which became English slang for fake. In the 1920s, this name had extended to fake gold rings passed around by American conmen , although the American accent led to the word becoming ‘phoney’ instead.