'Write What You Want — But Be Prepared for the Consequences'

PeggyGuggenheim

I’m reasonably certain that John Ashcroft didn’t recognize himself disguised as the evil high school guidance counselor in one of my novels. But like so much else, this thorny matter requires consideration on a case-by-case basis. In Mary McCarthy’s story “The Cicerone,” Peggy Guggenheim, the important collector of modern art, appears as Polly Grabbe, an aging, spoiled expatriate slut who collects garden statuary. Guggenheim did recognize herself and was definitely not flattered; it took years before the two women were friends again. Write what you want — but be prepared for the consequences.

Francine Prose, with Leslie Jamison in The New York Times, on the questions a writer asks when using real people and real experiences in fiction and nonfiction. Read more on writing from the Longreads Archive.

***

Photos: Wikimedia Commons and Flickr

Friends: We Need Your Help to Fund More Stories

We want to dramatically increase our story fund this year, but we can't do it without your support. Every dollar you contribute goes to writers and publishers who spend hours, weeks, and months reporting and writing outstanding stories. Now is the time to join us.
Become a Member