DATE: 7/27/2002 06:10:00 PM
From the writer's workshop:
I have a question, a philosophical and/or technical question if you will. Let's say that in the course of my day I come across a newspaper article, or a magazine piece, or have a conversation with someone that inspires me to write a story. Take, for example, Baxter, the benignly yet severely insane man who started telling me his life story at Borders in Providence yesterday. It was actually quite a touching story, about his mother's death of TB in a mental hospital after she was committed there indefinitely with postpartum psychosis. Who knows if it was true, but it was brilliant just the same.
Now. Suppose I changed Baxter's name, and changed a few of the details and fleshed it all out into a story. Suppose I called his mother Margaret, though he never told me her name, and suppose I said she had been the village slut, and that she had seen the postpartum psychosis angle as a way to escape raising the child she had by an unknown man. Or any other permutation of the story, but say I fictionalize it in a way. But suppose also that one of the defining moments of the piece is when Baxter says, as he said to me in real life, "On the day I was born they clocked the wind on Mt. Washington at 231 mph. It was the fastest the wind ever blew until a typhoon in India went 238 mph."
My question is this: Is my eventual story really my story, or is it Baxter's? Is this journalism disguised as fiction, or is it an act of interpersonal plaigarism? Is it inspiration or theivery? Should fiction be cut from whole cloth, or can it be collaged together, like found art?
At any rate, Email me, if you have an opinion on the subject.