Keith Cadieux (Jen Cabral)
Fiction writers are often accused of mining their everyday lives for material to use in their stories. They may notice a habit or character trait of yours and use it in their writing. They may like the way you fold gum wrappers before throwing them out, or the dimple that shows up only during your biggest smiles.
If you're close to a writer, you may find yourself reading through their work one day only to come across something about you injected into the story, as though it's been stolen from you. Or you may be hugely flattered to discover that something about you has made it into print.
Oftentimes, writers don't even know the people whose traits they transfer into their fiction. A writer may see something interesting in a total stranger and put it in a story. This isn't an early sign of stalking, but merely careful observation of the world around us.
Good writers are successful observers of the world. It's what keeps you and I reading. The interjections of real life are what make written stories interesting. And though a writer may be inspired by the gesture or habit of a particular person, it becomes something that readers in general can relate to. Even when we read something written by a total stranger (as most writers are to us), we are sure to find something that we recognize or that we have seen before.
Are writers living a quasi-voyeuristic life, only observing and never taking part in what's around them? I think that's veering off into the extreme. Writers are absolutely taking part. They're just also paying attention.
On the other hand, should you be on your guard around writers, careful only to expose what you're comfortable seeing in a story some day down the line? I wouldn't be too worried. You and I are at equal risk of being observed. It's the individual people and their odd traits and unique gestures that keep our lives and everything around us interesting. That's what writers are trying to tell you about when they write.
Now you just go about your day while I sit here quietly with my notebook.
Keith Cadieux lives and writes in Winnipeg, where he grew up. His first published work was the novella Gaze which was released by Quattro Books in 2010. He holds a Master's degree in Creative Writing from the University of Manitoba where he also received the Robert Kroetsch Creative MA Thesis Prize. Keith teaches English at the University of Winnipeg and will be working on a new collection of short stories while serving as Aqua Books' Writer in Residence from May to August, 2011.
This content is provided by Keith Cadieux. The views expressed do not express the views of CBC. CBC is not responsible for this content.