Tuesday, November 13, 2007

The tales we tell

It's funny how things come together sometimes. I'm finding myself in one of those confluences of life and art where I'm forced to notice the world clearing its throat at me, telling me to pay attention.

I'm writing like a wildwoman for NaNoWriMo, almost 24000 words in 12 days. This is more than I've ever written in one burst before. I'm enjoying it and the process is making me acutely aware of how fiction is culled from our own lives. This is no surprise, of course, but the intensity of this writing, thousands of words every day, is stripping any pretense away from the process. Portions of this book, episodes here and there or various character traits, are pulled from my life, from the lives of those around me and integrated into my characters. If I had more time or if I end up rewriting with an eye towards publication I'll file off the serial numbers, but for now, it's pretty transparent. As I'm writing I keep finding myself writing about the time when I... or the story my father told me about... or the way my mother... and so on.

At the same time I've been thinking about the way we tell the stories of our lives and the way those stories are often fictions. We don't mean to lie - we aren't lying - but we are the epicenters of our own lives and the stories are constructed so that particular telling, that truth, is told such that we are the heroes or at least the protagonists. And if the stories get embellished a little, so the stories are more interesting, who else will know? The arguments are a little fiercer, our responses are a little wittier, we are a little kinder or learn a more poignant message. However it works out, we are still at the center of the story that would, were it told by someone else, probably be a very different tale but no less true. We are all telling the true fiction of our lives all the time.

When I perform a piece of fiction it is no less true than an autobiographical piece. In fact, it may be more honest, because it has no pretense of not being filtered through my own lens of bias, hopes and ideals, hence the name of this blog.

All of this thinking was crystallized when I started reading The Thirteenth Tale in which a writer of fantastical fiction decides it's time to finally tell her true story, something she has never done before. I know my personal stories are no more true than my recounting of Eve or the djinni's story. Likewise they are no less true. And this novel I'm writing as a crash course in creative fiction? There is truth there too.

When you tell someone a story about your life don't worry too much about the details. Don't worry if you fudge the dates or enhance your role a little. We all do it. Take it from me, a professional liar, the truth of a story may have very little to do with how factual it is. Go ahead. Be a hero. I'll be listening, but I won't tell.

(c) 2007 Laura S. Packer Creative Commons License

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True Stories, Honest Lies by Laura S. Packer is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.
Based on a work at www.truestorieshonestlies.blogspot.com.
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