Imagined Encounter

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?

6 responses to “Imagined Encounter”

  1. I read American Psycho about a million years ago but I’m pretty sure Patrick Bateman had an encounter with Tom Cruise in an elevator or some such and the disclaimer covered it. I remember it really struck me at the time because Tom Cruise is a living celebrity so I made a point to flip through to the front matter.

    Ah, here is the disclaimer thanks to google:

    “This is a work of fiction. All of the characters, incidents, and dialogue, except for incidental references to public figures, products, or services, are imaginary and are not intended to refer to any living persons or to disparage any company’s products or services.”

    And I’m sure there’s probably something similar in the Sylvia book. You could put that on the cover letter if you really wanted, or worry about it after you receive interest.

    In any case, re: this story becoming a novel… exciting ! I hope it wants to be one. 🙂

    Oh! A quick glance at the copyright page of Wintering in amazon’s search inside revealed this:

    “Althought Wintering portrays real people and is inspired by actual events, it is a work of fiction. With some exceptions, the events, broadly [can’t make out this word–defined, maybe?], and situations portrayed here actually took place, but the author’s rendering of those events and their particulars is invented. The characters’ thoughts, conversations, and actions are a work of imagination.”

    So, don’t let it stop you! It doesn’t sound like it would be a dealbreaker for anyone who would be interested in publishing it in the future because there are ways to work around using real people, living or dead, in works of fiction. Sorry to turn this into such a long comment! Your story sounds intriguing as does it’s potential to be a novel! 🙂

  2. Thanks, Courtney. That’s very helpful.
    And Wintering was a beautiful book, so I certainly didn’t mean to compare myself/my story to it in any way!
    With mine, I don’t know what will happen. As it stands it’s just 18 pages, and ready for a certain person called e to read now…

  3. Yes, they do amazing things with disclaimers these days. My personal favorite is at the beginning of Timequake, by Kurt Vonnegut: “All persons, living or dead, are purely coincidental.”

    Sorry to stray somewhat off topic my first time here. If you do not chastize me, I believe I shall return.

  4. If the inspiration is real then it is within your right to write, I believe. I may be mistaken, but every person we write about is bathed in reality, every location one that we have visited, to some degree.

    I think it is a great thought. I think you should follow that thought. Very much.

    Love your blog by the way.

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