Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Real Life Fiction

I'm too busy delving into my past to blog today. I've been going through my old journals, sifting through my life’s events for fiction fodder. Here is the dark side of a writer’s life. We cannibalize our history to feed our craft. It’s not easy, this process of coldly analyzing and selecting deeply personal and often painful passages for public display. I find myself cringing as I read the cheerful, optimistic entries that preceded life’s catastrophes. I want to step into the journal and warn my past self of what’s about to happen. Or better still, purchase a magic pen to rewrite the past and spare myself all that anguish. But then what would I write about? I would have to turn to the outside world, immortalize other people’s lives even more so than I already do—heavily disguised, of course, to avoid legal action. Writing about others is interesting, but not as gratifying as translating your own life into fiction. It’s our own experiences that give our writing depth and passion.

So what do you do with all these bit of real life lovingly collected in your journals? Well, after years of staring at my stack of journals wondering what to do with it all, I realized I needed a system. I created a binder divided into sections named Story Ideas, Settings and Props, Characters, Dialogue, and the titles of projects I’m currently working on. Then I went through my journals, picked out anything that looked useful and copied it under the appropriate section. I’m starting to wonder if I should have used my word processor rather than a binder, but there is something satisfying about pulling a collection of paper off a shelf and flipping through it either randomly or with a specific purpose in mind.

Nonfiction and fiction writers alike are inspired by real life events. The fiction writer takes a true event a step further by adding, “But what if—?”