Today a friend wrote me with news of an essay contest she thought I might want to enter. I could write about when my father drove off a bridge and was killed, she suggested. Nice idea, except it never happened--except in my novel, Think of England. That father died in a car crash. Not mine.
An editor, a person who knew me very well, made the same mistake. In the course of a conversation she kept referring to "your first husband."
"I've only had one husband," I reminded her. "The one you know."
"But in your story..."
Yes. In my story. Which was fiction.
This happens when people know each other. Somehow actual acquaintanceship with a person renders their fiction into non-fiction. I can think of many reasons why this might happen, but I don't know for certain. Perhaps there is always the desire for us to know each other more thoroughly, and reading into a book is too irresistible an opportunity. It can also be assumed for the fiction of strangers, but that is more deliciously gossipy. With friends, it's better to afford the benefit of the doubt for an imagination.
Yet that's hard, because there are always bits that do correspond to reality. The novel I'm writing now includes a murder. What will that mean for my friendships?