Thursday, April 26, 2012

Stranger than Fiction

my novel
Don't know why, but lately a number of folks have asked me why I don't write a novel, a short story or another work of fiction. Perhaps they have read my books and blog and realize that anyone I know is fair game, fodder for my next essay, and they'd be more comfortable in disguise.

Fact is, I did try my hand at a novel 5 years ago, in the throes of my manic depression. The result belonged more in Psychology Today than on the NY Times bestseller list. It was up! It was down! It was up and down! I swear you needed Dramamine to read it.

I am intrigued by the possibilities of make-believe. I stand in line at the supermarket, inventing back stories for my fellow standers. Mr. Tenderloin and Asparagus is frantically wooing the girl who is ready to leave him. Mrs. Giant-size Pampers is wondering if she can afford to buy food after she's taken care of her baby's diaper needs. The teens with the cart full of Oreos and Tostitos have the marijuana munchies. The dapper elderly gentleman with the solitary chicken breast and single tomato will go home to an empty apartment, with Turner Classic Movies for company.

Part of my problem is my severe ADHD. I simply cannot keep track of a plot, and often lose interest before I have even named all my characters. I read about successful authors who create complex charts detailing everyone's comings and goings. I envy those who can home in on Conflict and Resolution, and tailor a manuscript that brings both to life. One of my friends in my writer's group worked on a novel set in 19th century Rockport, MA for years, and recently finished it. Casey has a distinctive Victorian-era voice, and I look forward to reading her book. I don't think I could ever go down that road myself. And yet...

 And yet. How much of our lives are our own fanciful creations? As we shave or brush our teeth in the morning, don't we gaze into that mirror and decide who we will be that day? Don't we dress in our costumes and enter into our plot? Are my “real” tales not just a recounting of my made-up days? Don’t know about you, but I often stand on the blurry line between fact and fiction, wondering if I can believe my own eyes and ears. Amazing things happen, things that would stretch credulity on the page. Rose's casual coffee-shop conversation in NYC leads to the realization that the other person’s cousin lives on the same block as we do in PA. 30 years after my sister's death, I get an email from her someone who'd dated her--and found my book in his doctor's office.

 So I’ll keep writing my truthful essays about my actual life, knowing that there is a world of mystery and fantasy contained within. And if anyone asks me if I write fiction, I’ll nod and say, “Maybe.”

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