Tuesday, July 6, 2010
Fact vs. Fiction
This might come as a surprise to you, but I write fiction. Shocker, I know.
Okay, okay. Of course you know I write fiction. Why bring it up? Because I believe wholeheartedly that the line between fact and fiction is pretty stinkin' fine. Am I suggesting that my Julia character (After the Leaves Fall, Summer Snow, and the upcoming Beneath the Night Tree) is based on my own life? Not at all. I don't have much in common with Julia at all. Maybe, more scandalously, I relate to Abigail (The Moment Between), the somewhat disturbed protagonist of my most recent book. Actually, she's an aberration to me, a total enigma. I wrote about her because I didn't understand her and I wanted to develop empathy for someone that I just didn't get.
So if I'm not writing about myself, why do I think the line between fact and fiction is fine? Because I believe it is impossible to write and not include bits and pieces of yourself. In fact, I might be so bold as to say that you can't be a good writer unless you're willing to bare segments of your soul.
Scary thought. Bits of my soul on display for anyone to read about and dissect? You bet. Anything honest, anything real and moving and potentially changing (even on a very small scale) has to include some sort of sacrifice. For me, that sacrifice comes in the form of little revelations. You read my books, you're going to learn a bit about me--even if the story is far from autobiographical.
Right now I'm working on a book that is framed by a staggering loss. It's a hard book for me to write because I have to daily put myself in the shoes of a woman who has lost her husband. It's not enough for me to simply imagine how she feels, I have to make myself really and truly face the reality of what it would be like to find myself husband-less. It's painful. I don't want to think about that possibility, much less dwell on it to the point of heartache. But her fictional reactions will be based on the tears I've shed trying to put pieces of myself into her life. And I'm weaving in other agonies, other things I've faced even if they don't perfectly relate to my protagonist's situation. It's not fun to dredge that stuff up, especially when I'm working on fiction, not autobiography or even biography.
But I believe that story is powerful. I believe that when we share pieces of ourselves we allow others to deal with their own pain and loss, joy and moments of celebration. It's powerful to be a part of something that matters, that has the promise to reach out and touch another person at a place where they're at (or have been or will be). And I'm willing to weave my fact into my fiction.
How about you? Are you willing to share? Do you allow people to enter into your own struggles and moments of epiphany? Has anyone ever "let you in" and changed things for you?