WRITING RULE #1:
DO NOT ALLOW FAMILY TO READ WHAT YOU WRITE.
The other day I was on my way home from the mall when I decided to call my mother. “Hey mom, it’s me!” I said, right before she handed the phone to my sister because her hands were full. “So what are you guys doing?” I asked my sister.
“Reading your publishers marketplace page,” she said, and that’s all she said.
I gulped. Because my sister does not read my publishers marketplace page. Ever. No one in the family ever reads my publishers marketplace page. Needless to say I found it strange, very strange, she was reading my publishers marketplace page! Something fishy was going on and I was determined to get to the bottom of it.
But before I could get to the bottom of it, my sister asked, “Is this about me?”
“NO!” I exclaimed, just like I’ve exclaimed on numerous occasions before.
“Well it sounds like me. Holly is me,” said Holly.
“Holly is not you,” I told Holly. “Holly has your name, but that’s it!”
Seriously, that really is it! Holly, the character in my book, is based on several real life characters in my life, myself included, but not at all on Holly, my sister. Holly, the character, is ONLY named after Holly my real life sister. Holly, the character, actually acts much like my friend Cady, but she is NOT Cady. Holly, the character, in my mind looks like my friend Grace. Grace is Chinese. Holly, my sister, is NOT Chinese. Holly, my sister, doesn’t even like Chinese food. At least I don’t think she does. Nor has Holly, my sister, ever been employed by an airline, like Holly, the character, and Cady, my friend. Holly, the character, is married to Oscar, a successful business man much like the man I married. However, Oscar is NOT my husband. Though Holly, the character, meets Oscar the exact same way I met my husband – on an airplane. Cady, my friend, met her husband, a pilot, at an airport standing in line at Starbucks, which is the same exact way Nicole, the main character, meets Scruffy. Only Scruffy is not a pilot. He’s a regular guy. Like my husband. Confused? It only gets worse. Holly, the character, gives Nicole advice on life and men throughout the book, which is a lot like the advice my very own mother would give in real life. Holly, the character, is NOT my mother. Got it? Good. So when Holly, my sister, thinks that Holly, the character, is her, I have to laugh. I’m sure Holly, my sister, would not think that’s funny. Honestly, even if I did actually try to write about my sister, the real life Holly, it still wouldn’t be my sister, not in her eyes, not in anyone’s eyes but my own. Why? William Maxwell explains…
“What we, or at any rate what I, refer to confidently as memory – meaning a moment, a scene, a fact that has been subjected to a fixative and thereby rescued from oblivion – is really a form of storytelling that goes on continually in the mind and often changes storytelling. Too many conflicting emotional interests are involved for life ever to be wholly acceptable, and possibly it is the work of the storyteller to rearrange things so that they conform to this end. In any case, in talking about the past we lie with every breath we draw.”
– WILLIAM MAXWELL (So Long, See You Tomorrow)
A few hours later my mother called me back. “Holly told me about your affair, that you wrote you were having an affair with your blog.”
I laughed. “Yeah?”
“Well…we both think that’s weird.”
Which brings me back to writing rule #1: Do not allow the family to read what you write!
Not if you want to become a writer.
Yeah, that's me, the one standing in the aisle wearing flammable polyester...