Friday, March 11, 2011

Reality Check

Is truth stranger than fiction? Fiction, by its very nature, is not the truth but must be believable. That’s walking – or writing – a very fine line. Take a story that has some form of love in the plot line. Even if it’s not a memoir, it must still appear to be true. But happiness isn’t very compelling. A story about happy love is a long yawn. So unless, I’m a person who thrives on drama and conflict, a story of my love life will seem to drag on page after page.

Conflict! My critique writers group urges me to increase the conflict in my story of Rachel and Charlie. Make Rachel an alcoholic, or somebody interesting – the implication being that a woman falling in love with a man isn’t very interesting without drama. So the vise tightens.

My writing challenge is to create a story that appears to be true, as though mirroring real life, when in reality, fiction is stranger than truth.

And for those times when life gives me twists in the plot line, or tightens the vise – I need to keep my wits about me and remember each unfolding moment. Take the last couple months for instance.

Suppose I thought I’d been falling for a man who by all appearances seemed to be falling for me. (And since I am a fiction writer – this could have all been my imagination!) Then a couple of weeks ago, the well dried up. For the first week, I wondered what was going on. Was it something I said or did? But since the story took place in my head, there wasn’t much to go on. The emotional turmoil caught me completely off-guard. Thinking back, it had been almost ten years since I’d actually cried over a man, and now here I was, unable to make it through the day without something reminding me of the silence.

Golden writing nuggets.

Coincidentally, I’m editing a portion of my unpublished novel, Talking to Strangers, where Rachel and Charlie experience a stunning conflict. Armed with my recent experience, I added details.

Rachel stared out the window, lost in thoughts of Charlie. More than once.

While meeting for business in a coffee shop, she heard a song that reminded her of Charlie. She lost her train of thought, unable to finish her sentence for listening to the lyrics.

She was an emotional wreck at home, yelling at the dog, losing her temper with her son.

Her heart ached like a deep bruise. (I still haven’t gotten the rest of the heart quite right – that rushing feeling, similar to adrenaline but more like ice.)

Lost. Crying.

Poor Rachel. I didn’t expect her to be such a wreck because I didn’t expect it from myself. But as she goes on, full of questions but not regretting the chance she took to open her heart to the risk of heartache, so I go on.

Rachel will look in the mirror and remind herself who she is. Rachel Stevens. She will then smile at herself, remembering what she looks like when she’s happy.

I will take notes. And hope that my life is not stranger than fiction.

1 comment:

Lori's Page said...

Wow, this is insightful. And completely interesting! Yo uneed to call me!