Fact or Fiction


Last week I had a bizarre experience that had me almost dancing down the street with secret glee. I wanted to write about it. I HAD to write about it. I had chill time in my schedule that day, so I stopped at a library and got most of a first draft on the page.

I decided at the outset that this story was too complex and personal to write as memoir, so I did the conversion to third-person point of view at the start. Aside from that, I stayed close to the reality of what happened. At t`hat point, I was the only active character in the story, and much of it was reflection and flashbacks.

I shared the result with a non-writer friend, mentioning that I knew the ending was lame. She made an off-handed suggestion for strengthening the ending. Oh, my! Her idea was like tossing a match into a pile of dry leaves. A 15,340 word story has grown to nearly 5000, and it's just getting started.

As I've continued writing, the main character has disengaged from “me” and taken on a life and mind of her own. The other characters are able to articulate her (my) thoughts that would be difficult to express and boring to read in memoir. Seven pages of reflection could put nearly anyone to sleep.

I’ve adopted the attitude of “Accuracy be damned, and all sorts of new ideas are tumbling forth. As I ponder what one or the other character will say next, breakthrough insights are coming to me that I probably would not have seen if I stayed in memoir, and especially if I didn't write at all. Besides, it’s fun.

These characters range from sassy to serious, nervous to nonchalant – all aspects of my reactions that I can split off and give their own voice. They can represent a wide range of emotion. They are giving me as many “cameras” as I need to create a holistic overview of this particular event.

One aspect of fiction is shared with memoir – as I said at the outset, this experience was rather personal, and it’s becoming way more so as the story develops. I ‘m writing right now for a readership of one, and may decide to keep it that way.

My bottom line discovery is that the power of memoir for personal exploration may be enhanced and expanded by turning to fiction– whether for publication, analysis, or pure fun. Furthermore, the longer I work on this story, the more real it becomes. Another few hours and I’ll be convinced it really did happen, just this way. This could have interesting implications for understanding memory and power to change your life.

Who has had a similar experience? Have you fictionalized a life story? Why? How did it work for you? Leave a comment and share your thought.

Write now: chose a story idea that you’ve been meaning to write about and write it as fiction. Tell is like you wish it had been. Add a few characters and let your various points of view reason things out. Let other people do things for you to reflect one. Have fun as you write and follow the story where it leads you. You may make some surprising discoveries.


KathyPooler said...

Sharon, this is a win-win situation. It seems to me ,in giving yourself permission to write this story, the floodgates of memory and discovery have opened. You can either shape this into a memoir somewhere down the line or keep it as fiction. Fantastic! It's amazing what can happen when we start writing. I'll look forward to your next step in this "magical" process. :-)

SuziCate said...

Is this about what you shared in the comments on my blog? I think it would make a great story and see how you spin off on that. I can't wait to read it. I've turned fact into fiction before...it's quite fun to turn coulda', woulda', shoulda' s into life on the page!

Sharon said...

Kathy, this won't be a memoir. As such it's rather pale. The juice is in imagination, assigning a body and persona to my various inner voices, and moving the conversation beyond the actual event to discover a bigger picture and meaning. But hey, that's coming out of MY head, so it's still intensely personal. Or wait ... MY head? No -- it's definitely Sarabelle. :-P

Sharon said...

Yes, it's the same one. Will I live to regret mentioning this? It's about a secret. It only came out in the story, not in real life. Yes, I am such a tease!

Samantha White said...

It sounds like fun, Sharon. I haven't been able to/haven't wanted to write any memoir since I wrote my book, so I haven't been writing anything (except to journal). Trying my hand at fiction might wake up my writing - worth a try! Thanks for telling us how to get there . . . .

Sharon said...

Samantha, just relax into the story and let it have its way with you. Find a juicy journal prompt and have a romp. I think you'll be amazed at what comes out. Have a ball!

Belinda Nicoll said...

Well, this must be the epitome of 'being on a roll.' Good for you to realize fiction is the right channel for this story. I can so relate to your enthusiasm, except I'm still holding mine in check until I can fully embrace my w.i.p. novel again. I'm looking forward to seeing this in print, Sharon.