Where does a story stop being masturbatory and start being fiction?
Is it actually *fun* to read the works or watch the plays of people you know and play "spot the story she always tells when drunk"?
Does my enjoyment of a piece grow or wane when I know the source material? I saw a one-act in college that was a very thinly veiled autobiography. It was uncomfortable to watch because I knew pieces of the story, and had been in a show with one of the "characters" at the time. I knew "something" was up, but I never knew the details. Two years later, there were the details out for everyone to see.
Should she have written the piece? Absolutely. I will never say someone should not write something. Should she have entered into the school's One Act Festival? Absolutely not. It was entirely too obvious who the characters were supposed to be, and what events the script chronicled. In short, I didn't want to know.
Hell, I feel the same way about Scarlett Johansson's character in "Lost in Translation." I read somewhere that her character and the husband were really supposed to be Sofia Coppola and her soon-after ex husband, Spike Jonze. I found myself unable to enjoy the movie as thoroughly after that. The veil of fiction was gone.
Even worse, after reading Neil Gaiman's blog for a year and a half, I wasn't as enthralled with Anansi Boys as I wanted to be, simply because I was SO USED to his writing. He's very good about including the blog as part of his writing process. And as a reader of his blog, I felt like a part of that process. That's awesome. I wish it wasn't until I started to read Anansi Boys for a second time that I realised what a wonderful book it actually is.
I've been writing recently, in an attempt to both get some stuff out of my head and on to paper, and simply the fact that the situation I want to write about is extraordinarily dramatic as it is. I want to take it and make it my own now.
I am aware that I have to pick my beta readers carefully. I want them to know who the players are, but I'd rather it not be the people whose ears I've been bending. Moreover, I'd love to show it to a total stranger and have them pick apart the mechanics without getting hung up on the fact that so-and-so is a jerk and I need to "break the wrist and walk away."
No one needs to be told to write what they know. Even if someone is writing about Space Nazis, the individual characters will be made up of pieces of that person's friends and acquaintances. It's how characters are real.
But can they only be real to strangers? Is that distance required?