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Over 60 ... And Getting Younger: January 18, 2013

A Writer’s Dilemma

The difficulty in which many writers find themselves is, should they pass up a good, solid interesting story or should they “rat out” some friend or acquaintance?

Joan Didion says, “A great memoirist, even one moved primarily by love and devotion, must possess a certain amount of ruthlessness.” The question to the author is, “Should I put down the truth about the person in my story or should I sugar-coat perhaps the lying and devious aspects with falsehoods and fiction?” That is the moral question!

Phillip Roth, the prolific and great American author, once made this observation about writing: “If a writer is sitting at your dinner table, be wary of anything you say or disclose about anyone or anything. Everything is grist for the writer’s mill.” All is fair in love, war and interesting disclosures.

 A writer spends much time staring at the blank, white page in front of him/her seeking out an essential truth to type for a article or story. Should he/she submerge that juicy tidbit and keep searching for a new subject? Probably not.

Be careful and never reveal more than you intended to, if Cindy Adams, Joan Rivers or Leo Tolstoy is sitting at your dinner table. A good story is hard to find.

I have been in writers’ group classes where the author has demanded that everyone pass the written story back to the author for concern or fear that a bold secret should get out. Even changing names and slightly changing situations does not baffle the people who know the basics of the story.

It is the author’s duty to get the story out and the informant’s duty to contain the tale. It is a situation that will have many of us on the horns of the proverbial dilemma.