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Writing Too Close To The Truth
When I first began writing this novel I was moved by a person, a life and a family- the greatness of it, tragic and beautiful. I befriended a long time veteran of the police force, and in return I learned about a world and a life I had never given a second thought to. Each time we spoke I would quietly listen to stories of life altering experiences that dealt with two decades of witnessing the ugliest most part of people- both horrific and heroic.
With a new found respect, I was inspired by his strength and in awe of their steadfast dedication and endurance to keep waking up each morning to do it all over again, it became one of the many reasons why I began writing my novel.
Obviously I’m aware of the origins of my story, however not since the beginning stages of my writing had I really thought about the difficulty I had when trying to create fiction from something real. It wasn’t until one of my a brief #ROW80 updates that I thought about the muses that inspire so many of our stories.
We’ve all heard at least once in our life, in order to be great or begin to be successful you should write or talk about the things you know. This concept can be applied to many professions including writing.
Even during a fiction writing class, I recall my instructor saying that most first-time writers in some way shape or form often write stories and create characters that are composites of themselves and their own lives.
Knowing I could write about the experience that moved me enough to start writing again; I took to my computer and created the outline to my novel. The first few months of writing began as a page-by-page biography of sorts. I didn’t mean to be so literal as I didn’t want my story to be a work of non-fiction. The anonymity and trust of my Muse was and will always be extremely important to me.
With this in mind, I wanted my story to contain the seminal feelings and ideas that moved and inspired me when I first felt and heard them. I just didn’t know how to go about it.
“Fiction is the truth inside the lie.” –Stephen King
Take Stephen King as an example. The protagonists in a large number of his fictional worlds are writers, and the settings take place in and around Maine (where he lives). His writing tends to carry a constant theme of isolation, either through the physical state his characters live in or within the internal conflicts they struggle with; this can be seen as a parallel interpretation to a writers life as they create. But these are not literal translations of his own life. Even when you read his book “On Writing” you can see how both similar and dissimilar his works are to him as a person. However, they still carry the essence of who he is, almost like a marker that says hey “That’s a Stephen King story’.
So, a few months into my own writing I began to take a hard look at my inspiration. I started pulling apart the cogs that created the structure that stood in front of me. By doing so I began to understand the foundation that built the real world I felt inspired by. The concrete and mortar was made up of universal truths, most of which we have all experienced at one point or another in our own lives.
It was the idea of family and the potential dysfunction of it; the experience of love and betrayal, the concept of fear and regret; purpose and loss; identity and legacy. These were the ideas and feelings I wanted to write about.
Soon I realized that my story needed to be more than changing names and locations. I began creating a world and a cluster of people that contained their own realities. The causalities of my main character wouldn’t be the same as any one person I knew in my life, but of the experiences, thoughts and feelings that I knew could happen depending on the choices I decided he/she would make in the story.
Now I’m beginning to understand that we contain a full catalog of knowledge both real and imagined, each tucked away within the fibers of our brains waiting to be called upon. Our minds contain countless hopes, dreams, observations of life and experiences- each available to us as we create the worlds within our stories.
So, still using as an outline the initial inspiration that lit the fire under me to write, the story that I’m creating today has become a mosaic of all the people I’ve met, information that I’ve read, watched and learned over the span of my lifetime. The words that I write are ideas that I imagine and some things that I have been witnessed to. It contains small nuggets of experiences and feelings that I have felt as a child and as an adult.
Either through writing prompts, a picture, a song, a news article, a scent, a person we may meet or even through something we have touched, I believe we have most of the tools needed to begin creating a great fictional piece of literature…even if it’s based on something real.