A Proper Privacy –
It has always tickled me when books of a certain vintage would abbreviate names and places that the author didn’t need to disclose. I think it was a Victorian convention. Even in fiction, they’d say, “When I met M- on the street, he seemed chipper, which was out of character.” As if the reader would be shocked by invading even the fictional M-’s privacy.
This little convention is fun and I’m using it in Splat & The Mighty Inkling. And I’m noticing the practical uses of it. In my story, this technique is double-layered for actual (non-fiction) people’s privacy. I’m changing all the character names in the book, except professionals I consulted in their professional capacity. My personal friends all have new aliases, and a few are only going by G.- or P-. Further, I’ve used this shorthand for cities some friends may live in, getting the city wrong on purpose and then only abbreviating that city name to A- or H-, so unstable readers don’t try and look people up by place in my facebook profile. I’m thinking of you!
A second convenience to this use of initials is that there are far too many characters and places in my real life who made it to my book’s narrative bits. Way too many men, for instance (who I assign sarcastic pseudonyms). So we don’t have to send the reader’s mind all over the globe with place names or “extras” who don’t return. It’s my version of red shirts on Star Trek.
On a related note, to keep the mass of characters to a minimum, one real person’s action may be played by another person in the story. Authors choose what people and details can best relay the truths behind the central conflicts. If you are not introduced in my book, you were still influential to me, but I had to parse out how to relay the story effectively. And if you don’t remember doing or saying something, know that someone actually did, but you were borrowed to convey it because it made sense. I would not have done this without great thought to whether you would have Probably said it as well. In the quite rare case (maybe twice), I amplified the tension of a situation for the same reason. Thanks for your help!
If you’re in my book, I hope you can take reasonable confidence that people who do not know you should not know you, unless they Sherlock it, and that can’t be helped. I could tag a hundred people that comprise my story every day, as I’m sure you could. And that includes you, J-, S-, J-, T-, A-, H-, et al. This isn’t an apology—I love how it all requires thought, process, review. It’s part of the joy of writing.
I count myself as supremely lucky in realizing that there are so many ways to look at my friendships and life adventures, that I have to start abbreviating or the reader will go dizzy with all the love!
Big love back!