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How much to share with reader who asks, "Did this happen in your family?"

Bondi Beach
Updated:

A reader told me how much he enjoyed one of my "Summer Heat" stories and asked whether I'd engaged in any of the described activities (voyeurism, in this case) with a family member.

The short answer to his question is "No," and I debated how to respond to why I wrote about taboo subjects. How much detail to give about where writing ideas come from do you give without destroying whatever magic or mystery there might be to the process? (Doesn't apply if you throw darts at a list of topics, of course.)

I ended up saying something about the power of "What if?" and how I use the bones of a real event to expand on what might have happened.

How much detail to provide to a reader? (Assumes a reasonable question, which this was, not an attempt to troll or spark some dispute.)

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docholladay

@Bondi Beach

Everyone has some kind of fantasy. Just for whatever reason most storytellers can make fantasy's seem real. Even when its obvious its not.

Speaking personally I don't need to know if any of the stories told are based on real events or not. Sure I know everything a writer experiences in their life influences their stories to some extent, that is natural. Even events that the writer may have totally forgotten. I don't try and pick what is real or fantasy when I read a story for both pleasure and relaxation.

Replies:   Bondi Beach
Bondi Beach

@docholladay

That's the way I approach a story when I read, although I understand the question some folks may have. I'm thinking less is more in talking about where story ideas come from.

Although given you never know who's on the other end of the typewriter, "No" is always a pretty good answer to "Did you really do that with your sister/mother/dog/pony?"

Not to mention reminding the reader the author and the narrator or protagonist are not the same person unless the author says so.

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Joe Long

But there's been a couple times when someone writes to say "I really loved the story, any of it real?" and I say, "Yeah, that one part actually happened to me" and I never hear from them again.

Replies:   Bondi Beach
Bondi Beach

@Joe Long

But there's been a couple times when someone writes to say "I really loved the story, any of it real?" and I say, "Yeah, that one part actually happened to me" and I never hear from them again.


Clearly it depends on what that one part was.

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Replies:   Joe Long
Crumbly Writer

It's a problem with all authors (fictional authors, at least), in that many readers assume that an author's protagonist are either based on the author himself (semi-autobiographical) or on specific people. What readers don't seem to grasp, even if they were, is that authors use bits and pieces of hundreds of people in making composite characters seem 'real'. Some of it is the author, some are friends, family and relatives, but a few are relatively famous people, but no character is built on any single character.

In short, I wouldn't get yourself into trouble by answering such a question (just in case your answer someday gets made public), instead I'd simply say "It's a fictional creation. It's interesting to think about, but the story has no basis in reality."

Replies:   Joe Long
Switch Blayde

@Bondi Beach

I've had some people ask if "it" really happened. My answer is always no, it's fiction.

The craziest one was when someone wanted to know where I lived. I wrote a story where the guy blackmailed his stuck-up neighbor and had his way with her. The guy wanted to do the same to "my" neighbor.

Replies:   Bondi Beach
Rambulator

Just reply like Banadin would, "Give or take a lie or two".

Bondi Beach

@Switch Blayde

So you gave him your address, right?

I remember telling rache as I read "Mornings on Horseback" that she'd better make it right at the end, "it" being what happened to the narrator. Definitely a successful story.

The only times (a couple or three) I've found it creepy is when the reader hints at his own experiences as if to invite a mutual sharing of what might have happened with a family member.

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Joe Long

@Bondi Beach

Clearly it depends on what that one part was.


I reckon so!

Joe Long

@Crumbly Writer

It's a problem with all authors (fictional authors, at least), in that many readers assume that an author's protagonist are either based on the author himself (semi-autobiographical)


In my case it's true but only some of the adventures are true, and most everyone else is a composite or merely inspired by someone.

The love interest is based on the younger sister of a guy I played baseball with, and one of my cousins, and another one of my cousins, and a girl at church, and my wife, and an actress on TV...

Geek of Ages

I have encountered in my life a surprisingly high number of people who have serious difficulty telling fantasy from reality.

Actors and actresses run into this problem a lot, too, where people think that because they played a villain, they're a terrible person in real life.

As for if I'm asked about what I write, I'd just say "I write the sorts of stories I like to read".

I have also gotten some of the people sharing their own stories with me, and I'm never quite sure what to do with them.

docholladay

I will admit I have sent similar messages at times. Basically that something in the story brought back memories either good or bad (usually the bad ones). Those memories of course were not the fault or the intention of the writer.

A good story is like a good song. They excite the emotions and memories of the audience in many different ways.

G Younger

I simply tell them that it what happens to me is not relevant. This is a story that comes from my imagination. I only wish I dated 5 cheerleaders at a time!

richardshagrin

Dating can be a significant expense, and take a significant amount of time. Most High School students can't afford to date five females at one time, even if you take them out to the same restaurant at the same time.

Dominions Son
Updated:

My take on the threads title question:

Share until they beg you to stop and/or threaten to get a restraining order.

If you don't have anything to share, make shit up. The creepier the better. :)

Replies:   Bondi Beach
Bondi Beach

@Dominions Son

make shit up


There it is, folks. The very definition of fiction writing.

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Replies:   docholladay
docholladay

@Bondi Beach

I think this falls under the expression "Need to Know". And as far as I can see the answer is the reader has no need to know. Tell them flat out its just fantasy based on imaginary situations and relationships. Who knows where the ideas came from or what suggested them. I don't and have no need to know. Ideas come from anything and everything.

red61544

I haven't yet read what I think is the perfect answer: "Why the hell would you ask a question like that? Do you always walk up to perfect strangers and ask them personal questions? That's ignorant!" No one on here needs readers so badly that they should put up with a question like that!

Replies:   Joe Long
Joe Long

@red61544

Do you always walk up to perfect strangers and ask them personal questions?


Devil's advocate - we aren't really perfect strangers. Sure, we've never met the readers in person and until they asked the question had no personal interaction, but we did write something that we placed in public view that describes certain actions. On one hand we say that readers might have a problem distinguishing fantasy from reality, but on the other we admit that many things in the stories are at least inspired by real life events.

Therefor, I do think it's natural to have a curiosity. It's another question as to whether one should actually ask the question.

Replies:   red61544  Crumbly Writer
red61544

@Joe Long

You're nicer than I, Joe. I'm a crotchety old man who, in my younger days, was a very tactful, considerate person. Now, I say what I think. The relationship between an author and reader does not include a right to pry into the author's life. That brings one down to the level of tabloid reporters who believe they have a right to know everything about everyone and, if not, have a right to make things up.

Replies:   Joe Long  Crumbly Writer
Joe Long

@red61544

The relationship between an author and reader does not include a right to pry into the author's life.


I can understand the curiosity. I did not condone the questioning. I think I've scared some away by answering.

Replies:   Joe_Bondi_Beach
Crumbly Writer

@Joe Long

Therefor, I do think it's natural to have a curiosity. It's another question as to whether one should actually ask the question.

This isn't limited to SOL readers desiring juicy details about authors' sex lives either. Fiction authors have a LONG history of readers assuming every MC is a reflection of their personal views and experiences. Thus, it isn't so much an imposition as an 'expectation adjustment' (i.e. "No, this was a simple fantasy I constructed, trying to make it as real as I could be basing it upon a variety of real experiences I've encountered over the years").

Readers need to accept that every mystery writer isn't a mass-murder, and that no ever porn writer is a sex-hound banging their sisters. Just because you write about it doesn't mean you've either done it or condone it. The 'real-life experiences' is what breaths life into an unrealistic fantasy, it's not a literal transcription. That's also why the best 'war' stories are traditionally written by people who NEVER fought in the war themselves. You need distance on a situation to write about it objectively. For most of us, we write about the failure of other stories to properly present and capture these situations, rather than simply reciting personal experiences.

Crumbly Writer
Updated:

@red61544


The relationship between an author and reader does not include a right to pry into the author's life. That brings one down to the level of tabloid reporters who believe they have a right to know everything about everyone and, if not, have a right to make things up.


That's not the fault of the inquisitive reporter, or curious reader, instead it's up to the author to say 'No, I gave you a story to enjoy for free, but I'm NOT telling you about my personal sex life (mainly because it's not as enjoyable as my stories are)!

However, the 'polite' way to express that topic isn't to attack the questioner, but to put the question into the proper perspective, otherwise they'll just respond with "Famous author denies he had affair with his sisters!"

One fans the flames, the other tamps the coals down before they combust.

The same thing happens when you write about politics. Readers of both stripes will attack you for your 'personal' beliefs, even when they're NOT your beliefs, merely the beliefs of a fictional character to provide a dramatic story conflict. I earned a LOT of rapid critics based on my responses to a few of those.

Joe_Bondi_Beach
Updated:

@Joe Long


I can understand the curiosity. I did not condone the questioning. I think I've scared some away by answering.


Follow the DS advice, above: "Share until they beg you to stop and/or threaten to get a restraining order."

I've had only one or two really creepy approaches from readers (or FBI agents, who knows?) along the lines of, "Yeah, that [insert here whatever activity my story described] kind of happened to me once when my daughter ..."

Maybe he's making it up, maybe he's not, but I didn't and don't want to hear about it. Let's just stay in never-never land where anything can and does happen. ETA: And where everyone lives happily ever after. Usually.

bb

Replies:   Joe Long
Joe Long

@Joe_Bondi_Beach

Follow the DS advice, above: "Share until they beg you to stop and/or threaten to get a restraining order."


One time was along the line of, "Yeah, that part actually happened with one of my cousins, but I was really (age x) and she was (age y)" (where y >= 14)

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer

@Joe Long

One time was along the line of, "Yeah, that part actually happened with one of my cousins, but I was really (age x) and she was (age y)" (where y >= 14)

The degree of truth really doesn't matter, as the responder is having difficulty with the fiction/reality separation, and will be disappointed if any of it isn't true (plus, you never know their particular kink. Their kiddie-porn fascination may overshadown their incest preoccupation (or their incest squick might override their under-age interest).

In short, you have no idea what nuts are loose in their heads, so entertaining any of it is inviting disaster. I suggest being polite, but keeping them firmly at arms distance (since many seem to fall into the 'let's trade daughters' camp, which is a separate can of worms altogether when they decide they like yours better than theirs). :(

Dominions Son

@Crumbly Writer

since many seem to fall into the 'let's trade daughters' camp


If it goes there, give him the name and address of your local chief of police.

Bondi Beach

@Crumbly Writer

(since many seem to fall into the 'let's trade daughters' camp, which is a separate can of worms altogether when they decide they like yours better than theirs). :(


On the other hand, there's always the "Harper Valley" series by "Peter Pan" (uds3@hotmail.com). There's a lot of trading of underage daughters with their enthusiastic participation. You'll have to dig around for them, but the Kristen Archives at ASSTR has several. There's some 35 or so in all. More on the stroke side than not, but still worth a read or two.

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Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer

@Bondi Beach

On the other hand, there's always the "Harper Valley" series by "Peter Pan". There's a lot of trading of underage daughters with their enthusiastic participation. ... More on the stroke side than not, but still worth a read or two.

While I enjoy a good story, there's a big difference between fiction, trying something between lovers, and a stranger proposing something during your first contact over the internet. That goes beyond Creepy, venturing into the 'police entrapment' category.

Darian Wolfe

I haven't encountered that problem yet. Several of my stories are semi-autobiographical in the same sense that a movie is based on true events. I try to tell the truth about life through my lies and that is how I would answer anybody who asked impertinent questions. Entrap that bitch. LOL

AmigaClone

Unless your reader is someone you know and trust in real life, I would admit to things like "Yes I did go shopping st a supermarket, but not admit to any shenanigans there.

Bondi Beach

@AmigaClone

"Yes I did go shopping st a supermarket, but not admit to any shenanigans there.


And swear you never went near the Reddi-Whip. Or the liver.

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Crumbly Writer

@AmigaClone

Unless your reader is someone you know and trust in real life, I would admit to things like "Yes I did go shopping st a supermarket, but not admit to any shenanigans there.

Given the political situation around the world, I'd be very careful about what you 'admit to' online. There's NO assurances that the 'friendly reader' isn't a prosecutors office looking for evidence to launch an investigation designed purely to score political points rather than to follow the existing laws.

Fiction is fiction for a reason. If it was true, it would be called "I'm a sleezebag, please arrest me!"

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