I recently read an article where the writer uses an untoward incident that’s occurred in the family to validate the point that she wanted to make. Maintaining protocol she did change the names. But those who had to understand, very well did. It might not have been very many. In fact, probably just the family. But it irked the hell out of me. The question I asked myself was why this was necessary? Why pick up unpleasant incidents from the lives of people known to you and turn them into stories? Is there a need to sensationalise the sufferings of another? Why can’t we just use incidents from our own lives and it’s existence if we must?
Then I thought…
Stories Are About Incidents
No matter how great the writer, a little bit of personal incidents and memories always creep into the writing. It could be portrayed purely as a work of fiction but I doubt anyone would ever be able to deny the fact that the entire story has not an iota of reality sprinkled in it. Where the problem (at least in my head) starts to happen is if I know this writer and thus know the incident that he / she is talking about – more so if the incident is not from his / her own life but from another person’s. Do we really have the right to use situations and challenges that others have faced and turn them into into dramatic creations? One would say that historical novels do attempt that. Yes they do. But that’s history that is publicly known. It is a part of history books that kids read from their school days. My objection is in the use of personal incidents that should ideally remain within closed doors – even if character names are being changed. No matter how hard I try, I cannot bring myself to accepting this.
It Is Easier To Write About What We Know
We could be content writers or we could be story tellers. Either ways, when we have a topic that we have to write on or choose to write on we need a base to start. For factual pieces there’s no dearth of information. All one needs to do is to Google it. But when it comes to other types where one’s thoughts and feelings need to be dealt with we have to fall back on what we know. The easy thing to do then is to use incidents that we are aware of. Somehow we avoid those which we have experienced and instead pull out those that others have gone through. It makes it less complicated for our minds, I guess. But why do we always resort to the easy?
When Examples Are Needed
Some writings need examples. For instance, say ‘what not to do on the first date’ or the more serious ‘why divorces are on the rise’. Where do we get examples from to validate the points that we make? What if we haven’t gone though any situation which we can use from our memory bank? We really don’t have a choice then but to use what we have heard form our friends and relatives over the years. And yet, when I have had to do this, I have never managed to. Instead I have tried to Google public information to make my point. Do you think that I am going way overboard when it comes to wanting to protect someone’s privacy? Or do I just belong to a different tribe that’s called ‘cultured’?
Names Have Been Changed After All
Here’s what my brain tries to reason with me – if names are changed then the incident does not remain the same. It no longer belongs to ‘X’ who actually went though it but is now a part of a fictitious ‘Y’’s life! I think my brain is trying real hard to calm my anger down. Let me tell you, it is not working. For if ‘X’ were to be reading about it, he / she would know that it is about him / her. And he / she would feel bad / hurt / humiliated / embarrassed (or maybe just all of these). Just changing names and adding an asterisk at the end saying ‘names have been changed’ doesn’t really change the emotions that ‘X’ has had to deal with. Why dig it up more in his / her mind by making the information public?
My logical being has tried hard to analyse. But I have another part of me that’s more emotional and, as some would say, highly illogical. Unfortunately this is the stronger one. I honestly believe that we humans tend to derive vicarious pleasure from others’ sufferings. Often it remains dormant and hidden. But one can’t really carry on with the charade forever. So, the moment we get to hear that something unpleasant has happened to someone we tend to feel happy that it’s not us. And so starts our blabbering. Some convert it into gossip and some into stories. I wish, we would stop and think before we did so. Just once if we could keep our conscience alive.
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