Uncomfortable: Part Three: The Ethics of Nonfiction

I have been wrestling with this for about a week now, ever since I transcribed a few of these passages and came across an alarming pattern.  Now, It may be a pattern that leads to nothing.  Nothing to see here, folks!  It could also be a part of the story that would matter very deeply and possibly explain a lot about a major character in this “story.”

I’m very careful what I reveal here, and again, this may be nothing.  You see, I don’t know the whole story.  I’m kind of like a sports announcer.  While I’m shouting about what a great home run just happened, I have no idea how those points will ultimately affect those players.  I know certain details ahead of time, sure, but only the ones about this family and only the broad strokes.  These are not my relatives, I only moved in here recently!  (In the grand scheme of things.)

I often think I was born to be a writer not because what I put on paper is elegant, or interesting, but because I see a story in everything.  When I read certain details in certain passages I take little leaps and wonder…what if?  They aren’t big leaps at all because I am like a detective with these pages.  I closely observe but I’d like to think I know people, and that I can read between the lines.  I’d like to start looking under some rocks.  The thing is, there are no rocks.   There is only what she has already told me-meaning, the diaries I have managed to read transcribe this far-and what she may tell me in the future-what may have been written in the pages I have yet to get to.

I can’t really conceal names and tell the story.  The only reason I’d like to tell it is to make sense of it.  To organize it.  That is always the reason I write.  Especially with this project I am looking to understand it.  I can archive it all day long.  I can take a million pictures and save them in triple redundancy, and I still don’t know much about it until I tell its story.  Babu has given me a whole world complete with a full cast of characters and many extras.  I have the blue print for it and I am just trying to get it built.

I decided from the beginning of this project that I would be cognizant of the weight of it.  I wish this were fiction.  I could create villains and heroes unabashedly and I wouldn’t even care which one gets hurt.  Nonfiction is hard.  Every one of these hundreds of names and quips and wedding announcements and funeral mentions are. real. people.

I believe I have talked myself into caution and I will leave this topic, possibly, for another day.

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2 Comments Add yours

  1. It’s a very tricky thing that you are trying to do here. These are real people and have families. You don’t want to damage reputations of people long gone. I guess that if you come across something that is really too damaging to publish you might just have to skip over it. I imagine that when you turn this into a book you may want the advice of a lawyer before you publish if you are worried about defamation. That said it wouldn’t be a story about real people if everyone behaved perfectly all the time.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Allllllll true. Thanks

      Like

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