I am writing a story about a real person, an artist, who is now dead. It is a fictionalized account of meeting this artist, someone who would be recognized by some readers—it depends. I use only the artist’s first name, but, with the details in place, it could be obvious.
I should say I have written the story. It is too late to say don’t do that because it’s already been written. I am nearing the end of a full draft now.
If a novel like this can be written—and published—then a story like mine could be, too, I assume? I hadn’t been thinking of publishing mine so much as writing it, until now, realizing it might actually reach an end and I will need to do something about it. If I were to send it out to literary journals (once polished and done, of course, which could take months) would I then mention in the cover letter that it’s about a real person? This artist is not as prominent as Sylvia Plath, so I suppose I should be clear. I always try to keep my cover letters as vague as possible about the story enclosed: I state the title and word count and that’s it, let the story stand for itself. I’m not sure if, with this story, I should break that rule.
It feels strange, dishonorable, to steal from the imaginary life of someone dead, but this artist is a real inspiration to me. Once I reach the end of the story, I will decide what to do next. The thing is, I always imagined the subject matter of this story as a novel… Perhaps it could become one. And, wow, what then?