Since I’ve just sort of plunged into uploading chapters of the draft of my novel, I thought I’d take one moment here and talk about what I think my reader and I might be doing here.
If you’ve looked at any of my other blog posts, you’ll notice that there are some remarkable similarities between the things I write about my “real life” and the details I’ve started to write about this fictional family. Hmm. Single Quaker mother of two boys, one of whom has bipolar disorder…
When I’ve started to describe the premise of my novel to someone who knows me well, they quickly get a look and often say, “Oh, it’s one of those sorts of novels, is it? More like a memoir.”
But having had a very long career as an English major (BA plus grad degree), I’ve thought about this a lot, and no, it’s not a memoir. First of all, I am blessed with a terrible memory. I couldn’t remember all the details of these scenes for ten days, let alone five or ten years. So the facts of what happened are, in some cases, the scaffolding, and then I am imagining all the parts that glue everything together. I fantasize people’s voices in my head (uh huh) and try to imagine what they might have said. So a reader who is one of my “characters,” might say, “I remember that!” But I’m sure that they will argue that it happened somewhat differently than the way I’ve set it down, and I hope I’ve avoided having those arguments by labeling it fiction. We will see. Most of them have avoided reading it yet. I think they’re really afraid that my writing sucks. That’s okay. I’ve been there with friends with manuscripts.
But I can’t deny the element of history in what I’m writing, even though in some parts, where I decided that the people I would be writing about would be just too pissed off at me if I wrote anything like the truth, I have written things that are more purely fiction. I am convinced (here comes the English major!) that a lot of my favorite novelists have done this: Joyce and Woolf and David Foster Wallace. I have not gone as far as some of them, writing little notes about conversations on scraps of paper as they happen. If you see me doing that, Martin and Pete, you can shoot some spit wads at me or something. I actually prefer to give reality some time to blur so I can do some re-shaping.
How about any of you who write? Are you convinced that your attempts to write things truly come out close to the way things actually happened?