If a friend told you something in confidence, something that would make a terrific starting point for a story, would it be okay to write about it? If that friend had no interest in your writing, never read your work, and you could change the name and details, weave the secret in around a fictional world so nobody knew it was her, would you?
That's my current writing dilemma. I want to be a good friend, I really, really do. I want to keep my lips tightly sealed and, in real life, I wouldn't dream of telling. But this secret is so juicy I'm itching to get started on a story around it.
None of my non-writing friends ever read anything I write - not even the published pieces. In fact, I've never seen most of them read anything at all. So you could say it would serve them right if I did write about them.
And I've used conversations in the past - those with my own friends, those I've overheard - without a single moral twinge. I've written about a friend who was fed up of being treated as the baby of the family. Another who was prepared to leap into a fast flowing river to save the family pet. And yet another who moved into a new house to find the dog next door shared the same name as her baby daughter.
But these stories weren't secrets. And they certainly weren't scandalous.
What if I let time pass before I use it? A year? Two years? Would it be okay then?
Sadly, even if the friend never found out and nobody was hurt, it would still be a betrayal - and I'd know. So I think I must let this one go.
But I'm thinking I might write about a writer who betrays a confidence in one of her stories...if only I can think up an interesting fictitious secret.