Borrowing, or betrayal: How real lives become fiction

Ask a writer’s friends or family, and they may agree with Graham Greene’s famous observation that every writer has a “splinter of ice” in his heart. They may even see themselves reflected in this ice, because every writer makes use of the people around her, in some way. How does a writer of fiction or non-fiction transform the people in her life into fuel for her art? How does she borrow without betraying? How much, if anything, is owed to the source of the material? What are the best ways to incorporate material – experiences, dialogue, memories – that are shared? This seminar, aimed at a general audience, will look at the ways that celebrated writers have grappled with this issue over time. It will be combine lecture with short exercises (one exercise to be provided in advance, and discussed in class.)

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