The other day I was talking with a friend and she mentioned she was caring for a 16 year old girl with Fetal Acohol Syndrome (FAS). Evidently this girl was a foster child who had been born with this particular disease, but I never did find out what became of her mother (nor was I going to ask). For those unaware, FAS happens when the pregnant mother drinks alcohol. The child is born with the possibility of all sorts of problems, from low birth weight to facial abnormalities to organ disfunction. If you want to know more, you can read all about it here (which is where I went to find out more).
My first thought upon hearing about this child was how incredibly difficult her life must have been so far, dealing with the repercussions of her mother's actions during pregnancy. Sixteen years of a life dominated by this debilitation. My youngest son was with me at the time, and (after we walked away) I took the opportunity to talk to him about it, let him think about how lucky he is to be completely healthy.
In my mind however, I was thinking about this girl's story and what her life might have been like up to now. I considered briefly trying to write something similar, a tale involving a young person like this who is born with FAS. But I decided it was too close to home for my friend, and I wasn't sure they would receive something like this in a positive light (assuming I was able to tell the tale well enough to get published).
I've had this type of thing happen to me numerous times since I've become a writer. Ideas pop into my head about a story that might mirror real events around me or involve people I know, and (so far) I shy away from putting it down on paper. My concern has always been that the real people would take offense or be hurt by putting their private tale out in the spotlight, so to speak. Even if I am changing the names and details, I'm always concerned that feelings might be hurt.
Have any of you ever written something like this, where your inspiration stems from real events around you? How do you write a story like this - keeping it realistic and true to life - without causing pain? Have you ever backed off from writing a story because you were worried about the implications to those involved?