Friday, July 29, 2005

Non-Fiction in Fiction Part 3

A couple of paragraphs later, Miller continues: “For the true writer, though, however close the events may be to his life, there is some distance, some remove, that allows for the shaping of the work. The shaping, after all, is what it’s all about. Every reader can sense the difference between a writer who embodies meaning through events he describes and the writer who seems simply mired in those events. It is that struggle for meaning that lets the writer escape the tyranny of what really happened and begin to dream his fictional dream.”

This sums up what I have been talking about. When I was working on a short story in college that was based on a real event, I was having a hard time. The professor kept telling me that the story was in this or that. I would say, “But that’s not how it happened.” And he said, “But that’s where the story is.” And he was so right. The facts of what happened the night I tore my ACL is good enough for an essay, but not very appealing as a short story. The real story was in my two girlfriends showing up at the hospital. Consequently, I have that story lined up as part of a young adult novel, but it could be good as a short story.

End Note:
Miller, Sue. “Virtual Reality: The Perils of Seeking a Novelist’s Facts in Her Fiction.” Writers on Writing: Collected Essays from The New York Times.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Non-fiction in Fiction Part 2

Sue Miller goes on to say, “Surely the writer’s job is to make relevant the world she wishes to write about. How? By writing well and carefully and powerfully. By using humor, as Cheever did; or violence, as O’Conner did; or rue, as Chekhov did, to make the territory of her imagination compelling and somehow universal. And that hold true whether the territory of the imagination is close to the literal truth of her life or far from it.”

Even in college, I was being taught to write what I know. I don’t know if the professors meant to come across a certain way, but they told me that I had nothing interesting to write about because I hadn’t lived this godless life, full of passion, lust and adventure. I wanted to say, “What about imagination? What about the hours I spent making up stories with my Star Wars figures? What about all of the times my bike was a horse, or a space ship, or a motorcycle? My imagination is my life and I can experience anything I choose. I don’t have to fly in outer space to imagine what it was like for Luke. I doubt that George Lucas has been into space. And his purpose in writing Star Wars wasn’t to give the details of life in space. He was telling a story and making it believable for the readers/viewers. As long as the reader buys in to what you’re saying, it doesn’t matter if you’ve been to that place or experienced that thing. What ultimately matters is the story and what the reader takes away from that story.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Non-fiction in Fiction Part 1

Sue Miller in “Virtual Reality: The Perils of Seeking a Novelist’s Facts in Her Fiction” says:

The fact is, you can make a good story of anything, anything at
all. What’s hard – what’s interesting about a story is not so
much the thing that’s in it, but what’s made of that thing. And
then, of course, the making itself. But there is no necessary life
to have lived or scene to have witnessed. No experiential sine
qua non.

We live in a time of non-fictional writing. People too often want to know where a story came from, what event in our lives, or from what person in our lives. When I was at a writer’s conference a couple of years ago, the first agent I met with asked me, “Why are you the person to write this book?” I wanted to yell out, “Because it’s my story and my imagination!” Instead I told her how the story was based on the events that happened to my father. However, my father will have a real hard time seeing himself in the character of Michael Jameson. Michael isn’t my dad. Michael is from somewhere deep in the recesses of my mind, as is Judd Simmons, the main villain of the story. The main event is based on something that really happened, but it’s all fiction. It’s from my imagination, which I believe is where true art is found.

We’ll continue this discussion tomorrow.