Sunday, December 16, 2012

That’s Life

The writer’s mind is a curious thing. It absorbs events and actions and even the lack thereof from real life, takes them into an interior room, turns lights on and off, sees them and their shadows from different angles and perspectives, then puts them into unmarked files.

Later on the files may be opened and reviewed, refreshing the pictures they paint, and when all works well, pasting them into new frames. "There’s a story in that," the writer says to himself. What happens after that is what we call "writing fiction." It might more properly be called "re-writing life."

For the last couple of weeks I’ve been living with a tale that grew out of a newspaper story. There is no truth in what I’m writing, beyond the universal truths that a good story may present. That is, I’ve taken a reported event and jumped off into a fictional world with fictional people doing fictional things in fictional ways – the real meaning of the caveat you find in all works of fiction: "Any resemblance to persons living or dead is purely coincidental." That’s not exactly true, of course. All characters, all actions, all outcomes have counterparts in real life, otherwise we’d never be able to understand them or recreate them.

For me that is what writing is about: trying to show you, the reader, a way of looking at people and events, times and places, acts and actions that no matter how they are disguised, are universal. Then you (and I) just might be entertained, and maybe even better understand how people work. Even if what is written is pure fiction it must have some basis in reality, some connection to what we as readers know, in order for us to understand it and appreciate it.

I may have an ending in mind when I start, but somehow the story always takes over, showing me parts I didn’t know were there, introducing me to characters who make themselves a part of the telling, and even rewriting the ending to make it an entirely new story. Being part of how that happens, rather than the sole creator, is not only satisfying, but humbling as well.

It is just like life, only more so.



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