Fiction Is My Truth

Image ByAntonio Bolfo/Reportage by Getty Images

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.

A 9mm Stored In My Underwear Drawer

FOR THE LOVE OF RESEARCH…

OK, to better learn about my characters for my novel- being that my main character is a former Marine & now Police Officer, I’ve done the following:

Interviewed (2) Marine and know another

Visited a recruitment office

Read a crap load of materials on them

Studied countless Marine videos ( Discovery Channel stuff, personal blogs & journals)

Watched Marine themed movies including ‘Full Metal Jacket’ and I HATE war movies !!!

Facebooked I “Liked” the United States Marine Corp on Facebook including their Marine Corps Recruit Depot in San Diego (Where my fictional character will be trained at)

Shooting I’m even going to go rifle and pistol shooting in the upcoming months

Spoken with Family Even though he isn’t a Marine I sat down with my father and spoke to him about his experience in the Army and why he joined. When I asked him why the Army and not the Marines he said “I didn’t  join the military to go fight and kill someone!” CRACKED ME UP!! But it says a lot about the roll and perception of the Marines in our armed forces.

I’m about as liberal as they come. I used to be afraid of guns and I didn’t know or think about the difference between each of the armed forces. Outside of knowing why my own family, friends and community members join the military (ie. A way out of bad neighborhoods, career/school opportunities or a need for strong support and guidance) I never really understood why anyone would put themselves in harms way for our own government that has demonstrated time and time again how they ALWAYS need to be reminded to give back when our soldiers return from war and are in need.

With that in mind, my ongoing process of learning and listening to the experiences of others I’ve come to respect and admire the strength, courage and stamina found in each of these Marine men and women, truly amazing. For that I am grateful to everyone I have spoken to and what I have learned.

However, in the process of researching I think I’ve come to learn way too much about hair cut regulations, rankings, The Crucible, and even BCGs…… that would be ‘Birth Control Glasses’ (military issued glasses).  And now my friend (The Marine I interviewed) was so excited that I was writing a story about a Marine he went out and bought me a T-shirt, coffee mug and my favorite, a Marine fatigued mouse pad!

Now if I can only get all my NYC Police family members and friends to get me stuff. I will be well on my way to become a card carrying NRA member with a 9mm stored in my underwear drawer and shotgun in my imaginary pick-up!! 😛

Killing Off My Main Character…..

I guess this is a spoiler alert.  However, by the time I edit this crazy draft, find & get an agent, then  with some luck have it published you would have forgotten any of this. Why? Because I’m very sure it will be many years from now that any of this will happen  LOL!!!

During a recent NaNoWriMo write-in I met a fellow writer who asked me why was I going to kill my main character. In so many words she asked  if I was killing him because he was a ‘bad’ person.

I smiled inside because it couldn’t be further from the truth.  He is a ‘good’ person, a man deserving love and a happy life, but in this case not an ending one would expect or want in a story for their main character.  Sometimes things are too broken to be fixed.

Life and the choices we make as individuals often leads us down a path to the inevitable, in this case death.  My character’s hurt has corrupted their ability make the change needed to do more than survive—to truly live. Allowing the pain to be the only thing that defines them. It may sound harsh, perhaps it is, but it is the one truth I know in the story’s outcome I created.

I’ve spent a good portion of my life meeting all types of people from all walks- off the beaten path so to say.  As a psych major, I choose a field of study that would help give me the tools needed to empower individuals enough to help them make the choices that would improve their own lives. This lead to a 12 year chosen career path as a counselor to teens, parents, alcoholics, heroin addicts, and HIV/AIDS patients. In that time, even as I looked at my own life, I began to understand there comes a point in a person’s life where the window for change becomes narrower and narrower.

Once a person passes that “Fork in the Road” and neglected to make the proverbial correct turn,

  • not taking that Leap of Faith and trusting even when others had shown them otherwise,
  • not embracing the love they found in a place they weren’t expecting,
  • not leaving the job that has caused them more misery than the security it provided,
  • not leaving that relationship,
  • saying No instead of Yes,
  • saying Yes instead of always No.

If we didn’t step into the unknown rather than settle for the familiar, it can become too late, as in the instance of my character’s story arc.

We are creatures of habit and within that there is a layer of fear of the unfamiliar and unknown.  I believe this fear leaves us in the soppy mess that we often find ourselves in. A dirty, unhappy but very comfortable place. Why?  Because this is what we know, what we are familiar with—it therefore becomes the only truth we believe in, because anything else, anything better, is not possible or to be lived by others.

By no means am I trying to simplify our lives and say that we are filled with a multitude of  choices by which we always turn a blind eye to.  What I do believe is that there is always a moment in our lives, however small or large that we do have an opportunity to choose; a decision that can either let the door crack open just enough to let the breeze in or simply see and experience something different.

I am not an blind optimist but I am always hopeful. Innately, I have always been a person that listened and cared when others don’t. I’ve often been let down or consumed with the pain of others—of individuals when they themselves don’t seem to be aware of or want to think about what they actually might be facing. Even with this, I remain ever hopeful.

Within the story I’ve created, it is my hope through witnessing my protagonist’s death the ones closest to him will value life and learn the lessons that needed to be learned. I see the main character of my story as the visionary—the poet and the one that needs to die.

I think it was said best by Michael Cunningham in his book The Hours

“Someone has to die in order that the rest of us should value life more. It’s contrast”  – Virgina Wolf

Novel Research: Women’s Police Locker Room

RESEARCH: I couldn’t wait to share it.. Its a mini clip of me in a women’s Police Precinct locker room.  (Although I took this video last winter- I just edited it for posting) Note: its a tiny piece. I had to edit it down for obvious reasons (women were changing into their uniforms! Ha!)

MY OBSERVATIONS:

  • Dirty
  • Unmaintained by cleaning staff (lack there of)
  • Peeling paint
  • Mold
  • A foul smell I couldn’t tell and didn’t want to know where it was coming from.
  • (1) Shower and (1) toilet for over 40 women (That work 8-12 hour shifts….or more at a time)
  • A report that there were bed bugs (Thus why most of the women kept their uniforms in plastic bags)
  • Bullet proof vests that looked way too small and too uncomfortable for most of the women there.
  • Their Lockers: Pictures of their children.. husbands..wives..boyfriends and girlfriends taped up.
  • A feeling of comradery despite the circumstance they worked in….Absolutely yes.

I Wonder What People Think About When They Write

44,683  Words Left

Watching the tweets come in one after another.
600 words,10,000 and even 20 thousand words!
I check on my NaNoWriMo buddies ….the same.

The speed of which everyone is writing….so fast. From afar it seems like each 1,000 word threshold is  filled with a secure plot and eloquent language to follow.  Watching the counts come in, I’m not wondering what the story is about but what is going through the mind of the author as he/she types.  Besides the obvious… your story. What are you thinking about as you go through your process of writing?

For me it is a combination  of a few things:

Self doubt like: “Boy that was a bad sentance….What am I six years old?”  to  “He would never say that, its not part of his character”

But mostly its a stream of consciousness, one of thoughts, feelings, actions and reactions.  All in the mind of my character, my main character- the hero embarking on his journey.  I feel like I’m just along for the ride.

Now I have to pull back from the police station he works in, stop thinking about the weight of his vest on his chest as he sits waiting for role call.  I stop listening to the jokes he cracks with his fellow Police Officers.

I stop to look at the word count below my screen.  1,800 down another 44,683 to go…assuming that’s where my story ends.

I’m beyond new at writing …creative writing that is.  I’ve written for years as a grant writer but this is very different. As a first time writer with no real “Schooling” I know the 1800 words I just spewed out …..you know, the same ones that are now staring blankly at me, lifeless- SUCK…..bad.

I joined National Novel Writing Month to help me get through a first full draft of my novel.  Knowing the daily word count goal would force me to stop going back and correcting and rewording my sentences. Stop me from picking up thesaurus to find a better word for ‘stubborn’.  Frankly I did it so I wouldn’t  re-read my paragraphs 10 times and more fixing and mending my language.

Well it’s helping, but it is also creating a new  level of stress for me. It is leaving me to wonder what my ‘final’ page will look like. Gibberish perhaps? Will I have to rewrite it again? Most likely.

In the end I don’t care. I care more about my story, the lives I’m watching within the novel. I have to care more about the prospect that I just may have a few sentences out of many that maybe good enough to stay…..

                      Here’s to a Shitty First Draft!  Rock on NaNoWriMo!!

50,000 Words in 30 Days!!

Up until 4am last night/morning writing…..
Woke up at 12pm to start again.

Feeling like I’m about 4 weeks behind schedule and 9 hours too late. But I made it through the ugly NYC snow…. found a seat.. sipping a hot coco, and prepping for  NATIONAL NOVEL WRITING MONTH    http://www.nanowrimo.org/

-Beginning Nov 1st- November 30th

My hope is that this blog will be another tool to hold me accountable to something other than the sad looks I get from my dogs when I cop out of writing that day; but to also obtain some encouragement from seasoned professionals and newbies like me.

But above all, I want to share my experience as a new writer and soon to be author. Everywhere there are artists asking each other for advice and support in their field of work. Each guarding their “process” in creating and developing their craft but secretly wondering how others do it.

WHAT THE HELL….. being new I’m happy to share a little while hoping to gain some knowledge  as I make my way to the last word on the last page.


https://natashaguadalupe.wordpress.com/category/music-always-helps-me-write/

Music is one of the most important things I love and need when I’m creating.  So I listen to a lot of it as I write.  I will share one or two songs as I am actively listening to them  in those moments.


https://natashaguadalupe.wordpress.com/category/the-world-within-the-story/

I do a lot of research, and in doing so I find some really interesting things. So you see how I obtain the info I get while learning about some of my characters- I will post some of this information to the blog



https://natashaguadalupe.wordpress.com/category/novel-snipets/

After long week of writing…IF, I find a passage from my novel that makes sense & is understandable I will share.


https://natashaguadalupe.wordpress.com/category/me-in-action/

Because sometimes words are not enough


https://natashaguadalupe.wordpress.com/category/si-me-ves-llorrar/

Essentially, this is where I use poetry as a cathartic process of releasing the things that weigh heavy on my chest and grip my heart


https://natashaguadalupe.wordpress.com/category/tools-of-the-trade/

Because we (writers/ artists) all could use a little help… I will post resources, links, NaNoWriMo info including grants and fellowships.


‘The ringing bells of the piragua cart…

‘The ringing bells of the piragua cart clicked clacked down the cobbled stone streets of Casica Blvd. They chimed the ugly truth that began to penetrate his mind.

It seeped through his skin like the cherry stained lips of school children licking the shaved mountains of ice. Each sparkling flake of snow flying out into the same sun that pressed upon his exposed face- blinding him from focusing on anything other than the past.’
-Sitting in a restaurant on Ashford Avenue, Condado Puerto Rico. I took this picture while writing this passage from my novel. It felt good.