“If God said, ‘Rumi pay homage to everything that has helped you enter my arms,’ there would not be one experience of my life, not one thought, not one feeling, nor any act, I would not bow to.”
An interesting “two sides of the same coin” moment occurred during my writing /recording session last night. First, while recording, I reached a section of Five Talents where my Devils are discussing a deal one of them had to make Tila Tequila famous and how they spun that on its head so that she’s now “famous” for less than savory reasons:
“What? She’ll be torn to shreds, and she’ll be a laughingstock, famous for all the wrong reasons, just like Tila—”
“Tequila.” Aba’s nose curled. “A dunderhead who can’t catch the irony of her own infamy? Yes, that little trophy of yours. Where is her wrath? Where is her anger and spite at the world’s mockery? It does not do to simply outwit them. That is merely half the battle, Gast.”
Now, my understanding is that public figures are fair game for this sort of satire and parody, so long as it’s obviously spoofing and not bordering on libel/slander (since I’m claiming Tila Tequila has a signed contract with the underworld for the purposes of this bit, I think I’m okay).
However, on the flip side of remote public figures are experiences and people close to me. I ended up discussing with a friend later that night certain trepidation I have about Unicorns & Satellites because elements of it are pulled from my experiences to use as starting points, but everything thereafter is fictionalized. This has made the opening days of the Unicorns grind an interesting emotional experience. A lot of f my present diaspora and personal questions, hopes, and sadness is right there on the page as the soil for the story to grow from.
There are also elements that involve people I know and care for greatly, which has- at times- stopped me mid-sentence to ask myself if I really can “put this out there.” I had similar questions about elements of Beneath the Wood, certain events in that story mirror events that transpired at my actual high school, and then are tied to other character actions that are fictionalized for the sake of the story.
Someone reading Beneath the Wood could draw the parallel of one and then make the jump to assume a parallel in all the rest of it- and they’d be wrong. In the end, there is a story I want to tell, and my experiences inform that story and it’s beats, as well as its emotional content. That’s just the nature of art for you.
However, if I can offer any piece of advice I’ve found tantamount for the application of real events, people and situations into one’s own story: always begin and end with empathy and objectivity.
As an author, we are gods writ small in our pages and prose. As we hope that an author of our universe would be just, so should we. With all characters, whether completely imaginary, or painted in tones of those you’ve known, we should aspire to imbue them with real spirit and emotion, and to give them fair benefit of the doubt and circumstance of our telling.
There are no true villains, just humans. Let your reader draw their own conclusions, and be both fair and honest in your storytelling, especially with respect to those you’ve known who honored you with inspiration.