Your Thursday post by Jennifer Simpson
I’ve been mulling this post for a week. I had all kinds of (preconceived) ideas about structure, about how you have to let the story be what it needs to be, tell the story in the way it needs to be said… and then I read this great article in the New York Times:
I’ve been trying to lie about this story for years. As a fiction writer, I feel an almost righteous obligation to the untruth. Fabrication is my livelihood, and so telling something straight, for me, is the mark of failure. Yet in many attempts over the years I’ve not been able to make out of this tiny — but weirdly soul-defining — episode in my life anything more than a plain recounting of the facts, as best as I can remember them. Dressing them up into fiction, in this case, wrecked what is essentially a long overdue confession.
Here’s the nonfiction version.
Not so much about structure but sometimes you just have to let the blog post be what it wants to be… or else it won’t feel authentic.
I am in no way suggesting that all you fiction writers and poets write creative nonfiction, but what I am suggesting is that sometimes the real-life “truth” doesn’t fly as fiction (and vice versa). Experiment. Take one of of your fiction pieces that is really a true experience from your life heavily disguised and write it as nonfiction! And that nonfiction piece that’s not working, write it 3rd person as fiction, change the gender of the main character–have fun with it! What you just may find is that even if it doesn’t work, you may learn something about the story that you didn’t know before, gather some insight into the characters, a greater understanding of why, and your fiction/nonfiction piece will be richer for that knowledge.
UNRELATED WRITING PROMPT: find a photo of yourself or someone in your story– if you’re writing fiction, use a found photo (google image search can be fun for that) or deeply imagine a photo of a person in your story.
Describe the person in the photo, the physical details like hair and eye color, face shape, height, body type, stature, mannerisms. Where and when was the photo taken? What does this photo mean to you? What does the photo NOT tell you about this person? What does this person want? What is in his/her way? What do you NOT know about this person? Then go beyond the photo itself: what was happening before or after this photo was taken, outside the edges of the frame….