I have read blogs where I cringe at some of the content that is written. It’s not so much the details in the blog, but who the details were about. It’s all good and well when the writer decides he (or she) is ready to open up and spill the beans for other people to read. The writer was ready for it. But a writer does not live alone on planet Pluto; he interacts with many people on a daily basis. Our lives are all intertwined.
I once read a blog written by someone I knew. As I started reading through it, I recognised one of the guys she was talking about. I felt terrible for him. He probably had no idea that some of his intimate actions were being spilled into the blogosphere for all the public to view. In this case it was an awkward sex story involving said guy. I immediately thought…has anyone written anything like this about me!!?? If some of the people I knew had to write about moments we have had together (no assumptions please!), I would be absolutely mortified! How horrible would it be if somewhere out there on the internet, secrets that I wasn’t ready to share, were being exposed for everyone to judge!
In our social circles, there are a lot of people have “big mouths”. You do something with one person, and their or your whole friend group probably knows a lot of the intimate/embarrassing details. It’s not great but it’s contained. On the internet? What if it went viral or ended up in one of those chain emails? I browsing the FML website and saw a girl write; “I’ve had the worst day, I just received a chain email showing pictures of fat girls falling. I saw my own unflattering picture!” Funny story, but it goes to show; internet content gets around.
How about a book? There are many published memoirs, biographies and autobiographies. I often wonder, how do all the other people in the book feel about their life being written about? The author has made peace with showing certain parts of his life and himself; how about everybody else? Freedom of expression for the author, but infringement of privacy for the other people! It’s like when you are a teenager and super shy about getting your first period, then your mother with whose come to terms with the facts of life thinks this is an absolutely normal topic to be discussing with people. Not cool!
As a writer, you need to decide what your stance is on writing about other people. I will probably want to write fiction one day. A lot of the characters are going to be modelled on people I have met. Things I describe will be based on my life experiences. If those people read my book, how are they going to feel? I’ve would have made peace with what I show about my character to other people, but I would feel bad if I were to offend someone in what I write about them. I don’t think this is so bad in fiction – in my opinion a character would hardly every be 100% based on someone you know; only aspects of their personality.
Most people don’t mind if they were written about in a favourable light. Here are my comments on what I think about situations where people would feel upset:
- Embarrassing moments: people should get over it! We are all human and do embarrassing things, don’t take yourself too seriously.
- Intimate moments: I think you should either ask for permission before publishing, or the person needs to have done something cruel that needs to be exposed. There must be a strong purpose behind it that justifies it. E.g. – if a woman that was raped, goes through the details about what was said and done in their interactions, revealing intimate moments becomes justifiable.
- Times a person behaved badly: I think a writer is justified in writing about this. It’s social punishment. It must be 100% true though! A writer could end up being sued for Defamation of Character if the facts were false.
- Times a person behaved in a weird or crazy way: once again; permission needs to be obtained or a strong purpose to justify writing about it.
There is also that problem that all these situations are relative. What the writer sees as being bad, crazy or favourable could differ to what the person being written about sees.
The other way around it is writing so that no-one other than yourself and the people who already know the embarrassing/crazy/intimate fact would ever know who you are writing about. This could get tricky too; the writer better be very skillful in leaving out any details. Unfortunately, this could result in a less authentic or boring story.
#DigiWriMo , #Day14