Since “David Copperfield” rates high on my list of favorite books, I’ve always enjoyed the story of how Dickens created the character of Dora, David’s first and very childlike wife. Apparently she was based on a woman Dickens was angry at, because she had rejected him. He made Dora a caricature of her – shallow, silly, immature. But life and readers have their own views. To Dickens’ chagrin, readers adored Dora and found her far more charming than the saintly heroine. The point is that you never know what will happen if you use your writing as a means of getting even.
When I began writing my memoir “Widow’s Walk, ” I was faced with the challenge of what – and who – to include or diplomatically soften. I was gentle with a number of people, but not with one. A relative, she had treated me callously just weeks after my husband died, when I was still vulnerable. I wrote a precise description of the ugliest incident. Frankly, I hoped this would show the world what she had done to me.
However, revenge can boomerang in a court of law. Cautiously I showed my manuscript to a lawyer who assured me what I had written was miles from being legally malicious, compared to other books. Still, he said, it would be safest to change the woman’s name. I took his advice and had fun doing it, for the name I chose was Vella. A savvy niece caught on right away. Reading the published book she not only recognized the woman but said, “Vella is for villain, isn’t it?
I also edited the confrontational dialogue to soften it. I realized by then there would be more triumph in writing a good book, than in using it as a tool for revenge.
Even without wielding a pen (computer) as a weapon, I constantly find that writing out my feelings of anger or grief in a journal enables me to walk freer of them. So although Dickens failed in his get-even attempt at making Dora ridiculous, I like to think that he enjoyed writing about her and worked off his pain with his prolific pen.
“Widow’s Walk” – available through iUniverse.com; “Turning Toward Tomorrow” -xLibnris.com; “Ten Women of Valor” – CreateSpace.com and Amazon.com. Also Amazon Kindle.