Friday, June 17, 2011

Should you keep a secret?

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.


Lolarific said...

I think you should just ask her. You're still keeping her secret because you're not telling everyone "hey this is this persons secret!". You just want to tell a story and that happened to give you an idea for a great one. Just say "hey i know this is your secret and i'll take it with me to the grave, but it gave me a wonderful idea for a story and it's already running the treadmill in my mind and i think it will make for a great book".

Karen said...

I was going to say that too. She might be happy for you to use it, especially if there's a happy outcome, and then it wouldn't be on your conscience :o)

And if not, your idea of writing about a writer betraying a confidence idea sounds great!

Scarlet Wilson said...

Bad girl reply! Don't say a word and I'd be totally tempted to use it!
Glad it's not my dilemma!

mell61 said...

Can you mix it up enough that even if that person read it, they wouldn't spot it?
If its a Maury / Jerry Springer type secret, well accredit it to those shows!

Lucy King said...

Oooh, a tricky one indeed. Personally I wouldn't use it - although would be mightily tempted!

Anonymous said...

Hi Suzanne,
You know you will use it, you've just shared it with us to make you feel better:) I would certainly use it. How about if you just blog it to us to see what we think?? You are a Minx after all.

Romy Sommer said...

This is a tough one! I'd be tempted to write the story. Hopefully by the time you've written it, edited it, and it's made its way to publication, it either won't be recognisable as her secret, or it'll be really old news.

Or maybe I'm just channelling my current heroine, whose motto is "it's easier to ask forgiveness than permission".