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Wednesday, September 17, 2014


Dear Readers...

Normally, I use my blog posts to give a little writing advice or introduce you to someone who can give you some writing advice. But today the tables are turned. I'm the one who needs a little advice and since Dear Abby doesn't field writing questions I'm relying on you, readers. Please tell me what you think.

Dear Readers,

I haven't worked on my WIP in one month and one day. It's not writer's block, exactly. In fact, I have
so many things I want to add to it but I'm not sure if I should. But let me start at the most fictional characters, mine are composites. A little bit me, a little bit of people I've met and a little bit of my imagination. Physical characteristics from one person, the speaking style of another, the quirks of another. As I mined my teenage daughter's friendships for many of the characters for this YA novel, I would tell her jokingly who was "going in my book".

Then, a month ago my daughter's best friend died. He was a young man just beginning to create his adult life when a stranger who shouldn't have been behind the wheel of an automobile took that all away from him. Many of his characteristics had found their way into one of my main characters.

I am torn. Part of me feels compelled to finish this novel, as if it will "capture" him, even if my daughter is the only one who reads this manuscript. But another part of me feels like a vulture writing a character based on him. If his family somehow recognizes him will it be painful for them? What about my daughter? How would his loved ones (and I) feel if someday I made money from a book containing a character based on him?

I don't know what to do so I am doing nothing. I haven't written anything in a month but every night I write and rewrite scenes in my head. Would it be better for everyone if I just abandon this WIP? Should I write it without the end plan of publication? Or should I pursue publication? What would you do?

Jodi is a WOW Blog tour organizer, always looking for her next WOW author. Contact her at Her blog Words by Webb is at

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Blogger Crystal Casavant-Otto said...

Sorry for your loss. I say you should keep writing! It's a way to give this young man the life that was taken from him. You'll be able to watch him grow old on the pages of your manuscript and this can bring peace and comfort to you and your daughter. It's also a way he can be memorialized.

5:22 AM  
Blogger Mason Canyon said...

Sorry for this loss that has touched so many lives. I'm not a writer, but a reader so my opinion comes from what you would create. It sounds as though you share the positive and wonderful things about this young man in your story. That's a wonderful thing, a way (like Crystal mentioned) he can live on. If you publish the book, you could always give a dedication to him and the positive impact he had on so many and continues to have. As for any future profits, you could sponsor something at his school in his honor to help students follow in his career path.

Sending hugs and prayers to you, your daughter and the young man's family.

5:31 AM  
OpenID liftingthecurtainoneducation said...

I share the approach of two authors with the same problem you cite, hoping it helps you. One is a by Madeline Sharples entitled Leaving the Hall Light On. The other is a book I wrote. In both cases, like yours, the real question is “…does the good you can accomplish with the book far outweigh a reasonable negative impact it might have on others.”

Ms. Sharples book was about the loss of a son to suicide. The blunt honesty in her writing about the dysfunctional impacts on a family as they painfully work their way through it is what makes her book so effective. One potential negative was that she pulls no punches and does not sugarcoat when describing the pain, anger, blame, helplessness, and unfairness that can destroy even the best families. The positives are clear. On Amazon alone there are many reviews grateful for the impact the book had on them. I know, one of them is mine. I had never been able to get past the loss of my older sister and best friend 25 years ago. We had both grown up the target of a vile pedophile stepfather. Decades later that still colored our lives. We could only talk to each other about those days. Shame, guilt, and anger all combined to make us unable to tell our own spouses -- the exact same emotions Ms. Sharples described. Her book did changed my view away from only looking back in anger at the unfairness of those times and Karen’s death, to doing what Ms. Sharples family was able to do years later-- I also now looked back in fondness at the good times, smiling at remembrances of my sister. Many reviews share the same sentiments. I have to believe when I look at the potential negatives, that her family was completely behind her knowing where she was going with her narrative and all the good it has done and will continue to do. The positives overwhelmed the negatives.

My book exposes actions of unqualified school administrators and DoE career bureaucrats that are destroying the education of our high school children. One possible negative was embarrassing those administrators and bureaucrats by exposing their actions, and their anger that I showed things they work so hard to hide. I also risked embarrassment for me and my family because I needed to disclose the pedophilia of my stepfather. Why? Criticizing education, especially SPED or inclusion classes, often gets dismissed as racist, or uncaring about children. By sharing how those events ended up driving me to help inclusion children, and that I volunteered for inclusion classes, I hoped people would look past the emotions to the real issues. The positives of fixing the real problems destroying education have a powerful impact on our children’s lives. Embarrassing administrators and bureaucrats by exposing the harm they are causing because not seem like much of a negative, especially since I never identify the person or school being described, and everything was vetted by lawyers to ensure accuracy, and met the whistleblower standard of “a reasonable person could come to this conclusion.” I could live with the shame of my children and others knowing what happened to me.

These two examples might help you come to a conclusion about your own book. Your family and daughter have already been through the events, and their love and respect for you means your daughter is proud that it meant so much to you to include it. Since you only use indirect references attributing your antagonist with his characteristics and never identify the name or location, a reader five states away who didn’t happen to know about that exact accident would have no clue who was involved. As to positives, a compelling and entertaining book that also makes your readers sensitive to what made that antagonist who he was, can only be a good thing.

I do have an opinion, though. I think you should pick up your pen, walk over to the computer, and start typing.  Writing is obviously your passion, and your book concept has a great deal of potential good far outweighing the small potential negatives.

6:49 AM  
Blogger Judy H said...

I think if anyone did recognize the young man, then they would see it as a tribute and nothing less. Get writing!

7:19 AM  
Blogger Holly Pettit said...

Forgive me for assuming here, but it sounds to me like you're still working through your own grieving process -- for the young man as well as for your kids' childhoods, which will be forever marred by this tragedy. Once you've gotten through the shock and mourning, I hope you'll go back to the novel, and keep the character intact. It is a testament to this young man's life.

8:43 AM  
Blogger Hope Clark said...

I cannot imagine a soul who would think anything but positive about you including snippets of this young man in your work. It's a honor, not a blight on his memory. I suggest you continue writing. It's an honor, I would think.

9:13 AM  
Blogger Susanne Brent said...

Take some time. Get quiet. You'll find the answer. In the mean time, perhaps work on something else. Sorry for the loss of what sounds like a dear young man.

10:54 AM  
Blogger Sioux's Page said...

Jodi--I think the family would be touched, and it would be a way to keep him alive in people's memories.

2:01 PM  
Blogger Jodi Webb said...

Thank you for all your thoughts. Perhaps what worries me is that I will let his death color the character based on him (I'll try to make him "perfect") or that if I don't make the character "perfect" people will say "How could you make him do that? He wasn't like that!" I suppose I'm most worried about readers (and me) confusing the real person for the character. But I feel like I should focus on this piece right now, if only as a way to work through the emotions of this tragedy.

6:35 PM  
Blogger Margo Dill said...

I agree with everyone here, and to your worry about money, you could donate a portion of the money to MADD or some organization like that. I have no idea how people do this but I think publishers can help set that up. So, so sorry for your loss and his family's, too. Extremely awful, awful story.

6:04 AM  
Blogger Mary Anne Benedetto said...

Grieving and healing typically take time, and your heart will tell you when you are emotionally ready to return to the project. You could express to the young man's family that you are dedicating this book in his memory, a gesture that I cannot imagine any mom would not appreciate. With regard to the monetary benefit from the project, most authors do not become independently wealthy from our writing, so no guilt needed for moving forward with this book. A donation (in any amount of your choice) in his memory would be welcome and helpful on many levels. I see that MADD was suggested--an excellent choice. Thoughts and prayers for everyone involved in this tragedy. Life is fragile, and every single day is a treasured gift. Many blessings to you for evaluating the sensitive issues related to the project. Follow your heart to know when to proceed.

10:42 AM  

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