Friday, May 22, 2009

True Confessions -- Have you used your kids in your writing?

We’ve had a rotten couple weeks in our household. Without going into great detail, let’s just say it involved a teenager, a teacher, and a high school election. The teenager is no Tracy Flick. He’s a good-hearted, hard-working kid, but the teacher was just as determined as Jim McAllister that said teenager lose the election. But in the land of careful what you wish for, while said teen did lose the election, the teacher in question also lost her job as student advisor, effective immediately.

I bring this up not to vent (what, me? vent?), but as an observation.

Earlier this week, Gale wrote about observing strangers in a waiting room. As we went through this experience, I found myself noting everyone’s reactions, including my own, and squirreling them away in my mental filing cabinet. At times I thought, “You rotten mother. You’re observing this like a writer!” But I couldn’t stop myself. It’s part of who I am.

I know there are times when I’ve used my kids in my writing. I look to them for authentic language; I test for valid emotions; and I have sneaked an anecdote or two -- maybe even three or four -- into my manuscripts. But I’ve never yet written anything based on reality.

Have you?


  1. Oh wow, sorry to hear about your son and a rotten teacher. I had one of those too...They are a bite.

    It's kind of the writer's curse, this observing thing we do. I've been doing it consciously since high school, so now it's like something I do automatically, err...unconsciously.

    I have incorporated real experiences into my writing, but have changed settings, names and anything else I needed to to "protect the guilty." :)

  2. Yes, I have, but don't tell them. I haven't used any real incidents, but I'm constantly observing - some things the mom in me might not like the writer in me is like...hey, stow that away, that's good...that's REAL!

  3. No! I never use my husband, children, friends or relatives in my writing. Good think you can't see me, or you'd know I'm lying!

    A story is built around a kernel of truth. From where that kernel comes, I'll never tell.

  4. I tried this once, and it didn't work. I was too close to the real life incidents and what I wrote wasn't good fiction.

    I have used personality traits such as how a certain someone deals with (or sometimes refuses to recognize) problems.

  5. When I try to work people or factual events into my writing, it doesn't always work for me either. I'm too close to them.

    On the other hand, my kids do help me with kidspeak and knowing what's age-appropriate for my characters in my writing.

  6. I agree -- kids help you keep it real. But don't them them catch you using their reality.