EWF14: The Lives of Others

What the program stated:
How do we go about representing other people in our writing? If Joan Didion’s claim “Writers are always selling somebody out,” is true, is there any way to soften the blow? In this panel a fiction writer, a memoirist and a journalist come together to talk about the different approaches in profiling people. With Benjamin Law, Michele Lee, Eli Glasman. Hosted by Alana Schetzer.

Fiction writers, particularly historical fiction and non-fiction writers alike need to concern themselves with the truth. When writing in these genres, writers are concerning themselves with the lives of others and need to keep that in the back of their mind while writing.

 The thing that was evident throughout the hour was that it is important to ask, whose story it  is you to tell? I had noticed that this was a theme that was common all day. In the case of whether you have permission to write the story, Michelle Lee stated that you ‘don’t seek permission, ask for forgiveness’, and as with writing for revenge well it was established that sometimes it isn’t a bad thing  and you shouldn’t ‘worry how you work will be recieved’ as Eli Glasman said.

When you are writing the story Eli explained that it is easier to just keep ‘one person in mind’ when writing. To help the story along, talk about them with your friends as if they are real people, and question what makes the characters seem real. Finally if bits of the story are to be left out, replace them with emotions.

It was Benjamin Law, who gave me the most valuable information. With his two genres being comedy memoir and journalism, he gave the audience some sound advice to an aspiring nonfiction writer. One thing he added to Eli and Michelle is that ‘you can never anticipate how someone is going to react, no matter what your intention may have been. When writing about people you know he has set a rule with his family, he: wrote with the door closed, edited with it open. He also said that if there is a misunderstanding with the work, don’t ignore their sensitivities. Finally he stated that you should never betray the trust of a person for the benefit of a good story, although if you do make sure they don’t read, than it is unlikely that they will ever know it existed. 

This was my second favourite panel of the day. It was lively, engaging and thought provoking. I found it especially valuable as a nonfiction writer, who wants to write profile pieces I found this one the best value. 

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