Bent Wrists Lesson #12: Disclaimers

Almost every work of fiction begins with a disclaimer like this:

…all persons appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to real people, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

If you’re a writer, you know that legal statement is hogwash.  We’re told repeatedly to write what we KNOW, so sadly that includes everyone we KNOW.  Everything we write is based on fact—people we know or have seen in the airport, places we’ve been to or researched, etc; these all lead our writing.

The fun part for a writer though, is pulling from truth and fact, and then twisting it into a new dimension—another reality.

So I’m going to buck the system and be up front and admit that some of my characters from Eyes of Light and my next novel, Secret Keepers, ARE based on real people.  But, if you think you might be one of these people, rest assured that I’m not invading your privacy and writing an undocumented biography on your life.  That would be wrong; besides, I’m not into writing soap operas!

As I write…the real-You morphs on the page into a new-You as that-you is put through trials and hardships by my typing fingers.  Hopefully, no one is offended if one of my characters has your name or eye twitch and then does something you disapprove of…like picking his nose.

“Hey,” you might say to me at the next family gathering, “Why did you write that I picked my nose in your book? That was really rude!” [Note: Picking noses doesn’t actually happen in any of the 3 Eyes of Light books; but now that I came up with that example, I’m wondering which of my family or friends can do it in a future book.  Hmmm?  Who’s been mean to me?]

I will frown and give you the normal author copout.  “What? You thought that character was You? Oh, please! I’m going to laugh my head off. You’re crazy!”

Then I’ll give you a compassionate pat on the back and say, “Take a deep breath and repeat after me: ‘It’s make believe. That nose-picking character isn’t me…’” or, if that doesn’t work, I’ll have you tap your glittery red shoes together and say 3 times, “There’s no place like home.” (It worked for Dorothy)

Maybe this is why silly disclaimers are put in the beginning of books…to save us authors from having to try to explain to our nose-picking friends that our nose-picking characters are NOT them.

We authors start from reality, but then we make our own Dr. Seuss worlds.   We stretch and shorten characters and give them funny hairdos and make the trees all twisty and pink.   And people get mad at us because they see a resemblance to John-Who in our book—and get nervous that we’re making fun of them in a clever way.

But don’t get in a dither.   Remember the disclaimer?  I might start out with a real person in mind—and set You on a diving board.  But once my character-You dives into the water (my story), he emerges as a brand new creature—New-You—and swims on his own.  Transformation…reality to fiction.

To all my real family and friends out there (and maybe the occasional stranger I pass in the store that’s picking your nose), thanks for getting on the diving board for my writing!  I hope the Who-do I place on your head in my story doesn’t offend you or clash with your clothes.  I’m not making fun of you—of Once-you, at least.   New-You is a completely different You-Who than You…even if they have your name, or your idiosyncrasies (like picking their nose).

Any resemblance to people, real or dead, is strictly coincidental and truly crazy!  I might have to have you committed for thinking otherwise.  So sit back, read my book, and think of Who-ville…at least a Who-ville that has evil drug capos who are out for revenge, and double agents who make your heart race, and half-crazed beautiful girls making stupid decisions that make you want to pull your hair out and scream.  And let your small heart grow 3 times larger (like the Grinch’s on the day he read Eyes of Light).


P.S.  And if you want your heart to grow 4 times larger, then write a review of my book on Amazon after you read it.  You’ll make my day (unless it’s a 1-2 star, then I’m killing you off in my next book).

Bent Wrist Writing Lessons:

23 thoughts on “Bent Wrists Lesson #12: Disclaimers

  1. Oh, Char. This one is wonderful. I can’t get over how many people ask me if they’re a character in my book. Really? It’s all I can do not to ask them, “So you actually find yourself that fascinating, huh?” Egos like that astound me.

    I finished your book and gave it 5 stars on Amazon! I was impressed! I’m still thinking about the characters. I could really see them and you had a very intriguing plot and subplots. Great work. Looking forward to reading your next book!

    • Awesome! You will be a queen or some kind of ruler that everyone adores in my next book! I’m glad you liked my book. I liked yours too. I hope no one you knew wondered if they were Esther Barton in your book. Scary!

  2. “unless it’s a 1-2 star, then I’m killing you off in my next book”—Ooh, I like that tactic. 🙂

    Your post made me think about my manuscript, but I don’t believe I based any characters on people I know; rather they are more a compilation of personalities of individuals I’ve likely encountered at some time or another. Gosh, I hope none of my family sees themselves in my characters, because it really would have been coincidental. Or at least unintentional. 🙂

    • It’s those unintentional likenesses that will come back to bite you…right? And yes, I thought the killing off characters was a very good threat. Another author told me about that trick. She had killed off all the girls that had been mean to her in high school in her stories.

  3. Haha, I couldn’t help but think about the book The Help when reading your post, and the book that was actually written in the story. All those people wondering if it was them, knowing it was them, denying it was… Hilarious!

  4. I’m afraid most of us “as is” would make dull characters in books! I take some true events from those around me, but they get put to very different characters who look and act nothing like the original source. So family and friends take note—you’re not in my books! 🙂 Someday, when the books are nearly publication, I think I’ll have to do a post with that disclaimer…. 😉

    • Yes, reality is a lot more boring than books. Even when we do use real characters from life, we spice them up a bit to make the story interesting.

  5. When people who know me read my WIP they ask if the main character is me. I guess these people don’t really know me after all because my main character is NOT me. Well, maybe a few pieces of me.

    • That’s funny. I do the same thing. I’ll give any one of my different characters pieces of me…or pieces of other people I know. Like a character might have my fascination for chocolate chips or bite their nails like me. But they’re not me. They’re NEWME.

  6. Great post. I took a moment to think about my ms, and while all my characters are original (by my standards), I am sure someone out there will think, “Hey! That sounds like me!” There isn’t a lot we can write that is completely unique, there will be echoes of people and events here and there. But like you point out, we start from reality–then create fiction.

    By the way, I did download your book, but because it is on my mom-in-law’s Kindle, I have to wait for my turn. She’s reading another book currently. As soon as I can, I will read your book and I’ll review it (keeping your warning in mind 🙂 )

    • Echoes of people and events! I like that thought. I know about waiting turns. My husband reads more on my Kindle than I do. Thank goodness for the library to fill in the times when he doesn’t want to give it up to me.

  7. Laughing quite hard right now. Thanks for the laughs. Very true. Very true. I probably shouldn’t let my family read this post though. They still believe they’re not in my books.

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