I was very interested in A.S. Byatt’s comments reported in the Guardian last month because most of the characters in the novel I’m writing are based on real people.
“I know at least one suicide and one attempted suicide caused by people having been put into novels. I know writers to whom I don’t tell personal things – which is hard, as these writers are always the most interested in what one has to tell,” she said. “Now we have the blog and the facebook everyone is a writer, and everyone’s idea of anyone else, kind or cruel, just or unjust, is available on the web, to be believed, or mocked. Blogs and facebooks, too, have caused suicides. Writers often realise the power of writing too late.”
How shallow it seems, after that, to mention that Lanying, my wife, is enjoying what I’m doing because it adds spice to our conversations. Today at breakfast I was talking about some creative decisions I’d made and she gave me a lot of new material I could use based on conversations she’d had with the woman I’ve called Greta. We have Greta’s permission to use the intimate details of her life, so I suppose she won’t kill herself when she reads what I’ve done with them. I hope she won’t kill me either.
At dinner Lanying said, “Let’s talk about your book again.”
I was more than happy to comply.
One of the other female characters is a nymphomaniac. “Don’t worry,” I told my wife. “I don’t want to sleep with her.”
“I wouldn’t mind if you did.”
“No, because I know at the end of the day you would rather be with me.”
“That’s true. Then, perhaps in the interests of research…”
You can never know too much about your characters, can you? Or can you?
Unfortunately, although she is a nymphomaniac, she still finds time to read a lot, so I’d better be careful. I wouldn’t want to hurt her feelings.