Monday, March 28, 2016

How life leaks into art and fiction

Every writer faces the challenge of filtering inspiration and ideas to weed out characters and events which hit too close to home. There are obvious things to avoid. Don't use names from your personal life. Don't use descriptions of characters that match people from your personal life. Not unless you have a very specific (and important!) reason for doing so.

Someone who says, "Sure, model your character after me!" today might change his or her mind tomorrow, or a year from now, or ten years from now. You might unwittingly insult someone through the actions and/or dialogue given to that modeled character. Yet, no matter how hard we try, life leaks in.

Skimming through old sketches and paintings in my deviantART account, two images jumped out at me. I wrote a picture book in my mid-twenties, back when my publishing aspirations were more along the lines of writing and illustrating for a younger crowd. I look at the one completed illustration from that project and all I see now is my son. Bizarre? Who knows. My son was born in 2011 and I created the painting below in 2006.

Likewise, I painted a random portrait of a girl at the seaside (meant to be Parksville, BC) and I now see an old friend's daughter in my random girl. Neither of these portraits were intended to represent a real person. But I can now lay fresh experiences over these works and see people that were never there.

I think fiction is very much like this. Everything comes from something, and if you look hard enough, you can draw lines connecting things that were never intended to be linked.

Illustration from Monster in The Lake

Craig Bay, Parksville, BC

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