Work of fiction strains a friendship

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Amy Dickinson, Ask Amy Ask Amy

Amy Dickinson is a general advice columnist.

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DEAR AMY: I recently published my first book. It is fiction, but a lot of the events and characters are based on my real life experiences. The main character is based on me (though her actions are very different from mine). I wrote under a pen name because I was afraid of negative feedback, but I told a few friends I thought I could trust. One of these friends, however, does not like the way I portrayed a character that I loosely based on her. Instead of coming to me with her concerns, she has written an online review that is more of a personal attack on me. She has accused me of "viciously attacking" her, of "not being over my jealousy of her," and "needing counseling." None of this is true. The jealousy my fictional character has is much exaggerated from what I actually felt. How can I convey to her that while this fictional character shares many of her attributes, it is not her? My editor says I shouldn't have to defend my work and that I should not respond. I am, however, sad that I may have lost this friendship. What, if anything, would be the best way to approach her?

WriterDEAR WRITER: Writing under a pen name because you are "afraid of negative feedback" is cowardly. Negative feedback is one of many risks you take as a writer, and until you can truly claim ownership of your work (no matter what name you use), you will be on the run.

I agree with your editor. Your work stands on its own, and I assure you that you will never win an online spitting war with a reader. Engaging will only draw attention to the issue, and unless this would generate interest in your book (or sales) I suggest you leave it alone. If her review is nothing but a personal attack, you should contact the site administrator and discuss having the post removed.

It might make you feel better to say in person: "This is a work of fiction based loosely on my experiences. I'm sorry you take offense. None was intended. Thanks for reading my novel."