Character revolt

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So a few weeks ago I mentioned to an editor I know (let's call her "Editor") that I'd had an interesting conversation with a third party (let's call him "Subject").

"That sounds really fascinating," Editor said. "Would you be interested in writing about it for our blog?"

"If Subject is cool with it, then sure," I said.

I emailed Subject to ask if that would be okay. "That's fine," he responded. "I'd just like to see the piece first to make sure you're not revealing anything too personal."

"Of course," I said. "Our talk certainly wasn't framed as an interview, so I won't include anything you don't want me to."

I spent quite a while trying to figure out the best way to approach the article, then quite a while more actually writing it, which turned out to be quite a bit trickier and more difficult than I'd imagined. I poured a lot of sweat and angst into that final product.

At last I sent my draft of the article off to Editor to see if it was what she was hoping for. (It was.) I also sent a copy to Subject yesterday to make sure I'd stayed within acceptable bounds. I heard back from Subject first.

"I know this goes completely against what I told you before," he said, "but now I'd prefer not to have any of this published."

I gather this happens with some frequency to real journalists, but it was not a pleasant experience for me. I was startled, in fact, at how much it hurt.

"At least he was nice about it," Laura told me.

"Yeah, he was nice," I said, "but it still really hurt. I mean, I've gotten more rejections from editors than I can count. I can deal with that. But this is the first time I've ever been rejected by one of my characters!"

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This page contains a single entry by William Shunn published on January 17, 2013 9:32 AM.

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