Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Truth is Stranger than Fiction

In every novel I write, there is one sentence of reality, a snippet of those odd events that happen in real life that no one believes. Often, during the critique process, one of my partners will say something like "that would never happen." But it did.

Let me say for the record that my novels are NOT representations of real life, nor do they portray actual people, alive or dead. That doesn't mean real people don't inspire them. Most recently, I had a conversation with my crit partners telling me that "real men don't have those kinds of conversations." And they're right. But then a funny thing happened.

I was sitting in Panera with my DH, eating breakfast right before we went to the fresh market, and we overheard a group of four young men having a conversation. A very "girlie" conversation. I looked at my husband, and he looked at me, and I said "men don't talk like that."  He laughed and he agreed. The conversation was about one young man trying to decide if he should ask his girlfriend to marry him, if he was leading her on by asking her not to move away when he wasn't sure he wanted to take the next step. That might be something one man would ask another man (or more likely a woman friend) in a dark corner of a bar in a voice where no one could overhear, but not something you air to three of your friends for the rest of the world to overhear and solicit opinions.  That's something women do. One of the men did say something several minutes later which cleared it all up in my mind. (For the record, they were all hetero - or at least I assume so based on the conversation.)

Truth is stranger than fiction.  Things happen in real life that don't translate to stories. People read them and roll their eyes and say "That would never happen." And yet these things do happen.

Here are a couple of "real life" moments that I snuck into my stories (and again, there's usually only one sentence in each book).
  • A guy "stuck" on a date that he can't get out of - "Some other guy would be really lucky to have you."
  • Upon being introduced to your boyfriend's mother - "It was nice to have known you, dear."
  • A tennis player who throws his racket into a chain link fence in a fit of rage. 
As for the "girlie boys" conversation, no I won't be including that in a book, because it does strain belief. I couldn't believe it when I heard it! 

So you want to know how the new book is coming? I'm still working on editing, vetting it through my crit group. I'm in that "I suck as a writer" mode (that happens when you're editing - you realize that you aren't perfect and take it to the extreme opposite direction). I have some comments this morning that I have to look at a second time because in this mood, a simple comment like "this doesn't work for me" is like a poison dart in the neck. That's what it's supposed to say. I don't care if it doesn't work for you! {deep breaths} Those comments are often spot on (although not always). So I need to consider if the comments are valid or someone else's interpretation. You've probably heard that writing/reading is a very subjective thing. I'm very lucky to have excellent critique partners, and even if I choose not to incorporate their suggestions, their input is extremely valuable. They make me a better writer. So time to suck it up and get back to those edits.  Rekindling goes to the editor July 20. I had a ton of fun writing it, and even though I'm struggling to fine-tune it, I'm still enjoying the story.


  1. As writers, we want to make our characters unique, yet we're saddled with having to keep them within believable limits. In your example, obviously a man DID talk that way, but it's outside the scope of what most people consider normal for the gender. A good author will have set a character up so readers can believe what he's doing/saying when it strays from the norm.

    As for 'it doesn't work for me' -- not everything is going to work for every readers, but we have to look at feedback and try to figure out why it might not have worked. Often, it's simply a matter of rewording--we as writers have everything in our heads, and sometimes it doesn't quite make it to the page. Sometimes, it's a matter of better foreshadowing. And sometimes it doesn't work for a reader because of their own personal preferences, and there's not a thing you can do about that. They might not like profanity, or (in a real example stated in a review) the fact that a character moved halfway across the country to start her new life, when the reader felt 100 miles was plenty far enough.

    1. Absolutely right, Terry. What one person relates to or believes might be diametrically opposed to a second person's point of view. As writer's, we have to present it as clearly as possible within the realm of our own imagination and hope it appeals to the broader audience.

      I've had reviews like that, as well, and some where you want to ask if the reviewer actually read the story. You can't please everyone!