Writers tiptoe in and out of people’s lives. We’re constant spectators and often our need to see into people’s lives, to develop our perceptions of people and their actions and reactions, dialogue, and mannerisms, can cross boundaries, even invade privacy.
Believe me, it isn’t intentional. As writers we are applauded for our insights into people. In fact we’re commended
Hell, we’re paid for it, for pete’s sake! on our ability to make our characters seem like real people. How do we do it? You got it. We often use real people. How do we do that? We pay close, careful attention, sometimes even overstep boundaries and invade privacies, in order to make our characters as real as possible. And, frankly, we’re loved for it.
Ain’t there always? the same training we undergo as writers, to overstep and chuck convention and formality in order to get to the people at the bottom of it all, can lead us to disregard social niceties. Even forget manners.
When dealing with a writer, it is important to remember that once permission into your life is granted, the writer won’t automatically back down, decide to stop at politeness, suddenly forgo the invitation. You are our Muse. Or, at the very least, an inspiration for the Muse.
Disney’s The Little Mermaid‘s character Sebastian the crab states, “Teenagers. You give ’em an inch, they swim all over you.” That phrase describes a writer to a tee. Simply replace ‘teenagers’ with ‘writers’ and you’ve nailed it.
It isn’t that we’re intentionally overstepping ourselves or being rude. Writers have a difficult time not proceeding. For instance, you tell a writer a great
but probably really embarrassing with a lot of social, political, religious, or familial complications for you story – they are going to use it. If you’re lucky, they are good enough writers to totally disguise the situation and people to the point that hardly you recognize it. If they’re not so good, well… it might end up verbatim. Whoops! Telling a writer anything is an invitation to let them use it. And if you give them permission… well, they are going to run with it.
However what has to be remembered is that once permission for anything has been given to a writer it’s a little like trying to stick a finger in the dam to stop the flood. Writers often take a single permission as an overall permission. Not always, mind you, but often. They’ll often forget their manners and the fact that one go-ahead does not constitute a lifelong green flag.
The worst thing is a writer doesn’t stop at using permissions for their writing. Any permission to a writer seems to give them the green flag. They forget themselves, space on social niceties and manners. In short, we’re rude, privacy-violaters. Occasionally, it costs us relationships. If we’re lucky, it doesn’t. But can wreck the potential for closeness in relationships. I mean, once you’ve had your privacy violated, you’re often creeped out by the invasion. Hopefully the writer realizes, and is remorseful, for whatever weirdness they perpetuated, and the relationship can continue, relatively untarnished.
So how does a person deal with privacy-invading guffaws by a writer?
When an offending writer dents your relationship with them, it is important to remember they didn’t do it intentionally. If pointed out, most of the time, they will feel really awful about how they made you feel.
Unless of course they are complete dicks. They will file away the offense note: this probably will not stop them from using the situation in a story, that’s just a warning; life lessons rarely go unused to a writer and try not to commit it again. I said try, mind you. More than likely, at some point, the writer will commit some kind of permissions-violation again. And again. And again. What they won’t do is commit the exact same one each time. They will learn but the ‘permission was given so go!‘ part of their brain will override other things. Believe me, unless the violation is truly heinous, the writer will feel worse than you are mad at them for the relationship ding.
So, just remember, writers don’t mean to be weird creepers. We just are. It’s a byproduct of being a writer. And, if you’re our friend/family member, you probably love us for
or despite that fact. At least we all hope that’s the case.