This is a work of fiction…

I just saw The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo the other night and am now reading the book. Naturally, I was disturbed by some of the scenes I saw in the movie and will take no pleasure in reading them when I get to those parts in the book, but I understand why the author included them. Bad things happen to people in real life; to ignore them in our fiction is to bury our heads in the sand. But it made me wonder… Could I write scenes like that? You know what I mean- the gritty, horrible, sadistic, cover-your-hand-over-your-eyes-because-you-feel-dirty-watching-them scenes.

Yes, yes I can. The problem (for me) doesn’t lie in imagining them, or putting them to paper. The problem lies only in, What would my mother think?? Seriously, my biggest hang-up as I write this novel is getting past the horror and embarrassment my mother will feel when she finally reads some of these scenes.

I am an optimist by nature and like to think that some day my book will be published. I believe this will happen. And when that day comes, I know my mother will be first in line for a signed copy. And then she will read the book, get to one of the more dramatic scenes, and think, “How could my little baby girl write this stuff?”

I’m not even talking about Dragon Tattoo stuff… my drama is weak by comparison. But it is more risque than my mom is used to, and that’s what worries me. Outwardly my mom will smile and tell me how proud of me she is (she really is!) but inwardly she will always wonder if I am secretly depraved, disturbed, or both. I wonder what Stieg Larsson’s mother would have thought upon reading Dragon Tattoo? But then, both she and Larsson died before any of his books were published so it’s really a moot point. My mother, on the other hand, is alive and well, and most certainly will read my book with a raised eyebrow.

So, Mom, let me just assure you right now: No, I’m not depraved or disturbed. I made all this stuff up in my head and none of it ever happened to me or anybody else I know. I love you, and you raised me right. But if I wrote a book about a couple of people who went around doing good deeds and nothing bad ever happened to them, it wouldn’t sell.

Ok, now that I’ve gotten that out of the way, let me just take care of one more thing. To all the readers who are snickering at me right now, I would like to point out that apparently I’m not the only writer who cares what their mother thinks. Open any novel these days and you will see right there on the copyright page:

This is a work of fiction. All the characters and events portrayed in this book are either products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously…

And you thought that was just for the lawyers.

-BB

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3 thoughts on “This is a work of fiction…

  1. I liked this post. My first novel will come out in January, and I find that I dare not tell my family about it in case they read it and I have to face awkward questions about its contents. It’s not too much bad stuff, but I can still imagine my mother asking me to explain scenes in it to her that she didn’t quite understand. She did this with my Ph.D. thesis which was bad enough, and goodness only knows what she’s going to do with a post-apocalyptic zombie-type book! I dread the questions like, ‘And why did they eat that little girl’s heart?’, especially over Christmas dinner (yes my mother is the type of person who would do exactly this!). Maybe I’m unusual amongst writers in keeping my work from my family, but I would feel much more constrained when working on it if I thought there would be a chance of them reading it and knowing I was the author. I work under a pseudonym for this reason.

    1. Hi Colin,

      Thanks for the comment. I don’t think you’re unusual in keeping your writing from your family. The thought of my mom reading my pages over my shoulder is enough to censor even the most chaste of scenes. I simply cannot have that during the creative process.

      I just finished Lolita last week and found myself wondering what Nabokov’s mother would have thought of it. I would be willing to bet she never got an advanced reading copy. 😉

      We do what we have to do to get the words on the pages!

      1. Good point, but presumably Nabokov had the luxury that his mother was Russian and probably didn’t speak English! Anyway, without the delusion that I can keep what I write from my family, I think I would feel a lot more constrained (as you say, the idea of your mother reading over your shoulder, and if like mine, probably tutting slightly). This is not because it’s particularly dodgy (it’s all actually quite tame), it’s just that I’d feel I couldn’t write as freely. Oddly enough, I’m fine with my girlfriend reading my stuff, even when I know she’s going to critique it (which she happens to be very good at in terms of providing positive feedback!)

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