“Good writers define reality; bad ones merely restate it. A good writer turns fact into truth; a bad writer will, more often than not, accomplish the opposite.”
- Edward Albee
I knitted a few more hats this week, and the fruits of my labour included one blog-beanie commission (yay, I can buy more yarn!) and another Christmas present. And once again, with surprisingly little effort, I wrote another short story. That’s two short stories in a week, each of which was inspired by something I read in the paper.
Which raises a few questions:
Everything that happens is a story. But if a story happens in the woods and no-one is there to see it unfold, did it really happen?
By the same token, if a writer hears a good one and wraps her own fiction around it, is it really fiction?
And why did that chicken cross the road, anyway?
There’s much discussion these days about creative non-fiction. At best the definition is fuzzy. One critic suggests that the genre is best understood by splitting it into two subcategories, the personal essay and the journalistic essay, but the genre is currently defined by its lack of established conventions.
But what of the lowly writer who happens upon the occasional human interest story that triggers an avalanche of “what-ifs,” along the lines of “What if the trucker’s wife has just died, causing their lifelong dream of a Florida retirement to shatter?” or, “What if the stoner dealing dope outside the library is actually a young father whose dreams of learning a respectable trade are repeatedly dashed by life getting in the way?” or, “What if the new resident in the nursing home has been lying about the wartime photograph of her late husband, the fighter pilot?” By these what-ifs can fiction be writ. Or wraught. Or wroten. You know what I mean.
Really, it all boils down to respect. And it is the respect for three things I’ve come to understand as being vital to the writing process: Respect for the story, the language, and the reader. A story can’t succeed without the other two, which I guess answers the story-in-the-woods question. As for the wrapping-of-fiction around a good life story = fiction, I vote yes. Does there actually exist an original story any more?
As far as the chicken crossing the road is concerned, I have no idea.
Maybe it’s time to knit another hat.