Confusing Writing With Real Life
I like to write fiction and I have no desire to write non-fiction. Non-fiction requires a lot of research that has to stand up to intense scrutiny. The really hard part about writing non-fiction is uplifting dull facts so that they are entertaining while keeping them 100% correct. I have also learned that there isn’t a big market for non-fiction unless your subject is really special. That kind of writing is probably not going to happen for me. Granted, I do have an amazing non-fiction idea that would defiantly be a best seller, but the research would take far too much effort. Wait a second. A few blogs ago, I wrote all about book marketing and writing. All true. But that was a minor amount of writing and not many people follow my blog. Something to work on…
When I write fiction, I get into this mental area where I’m free to make my characters do or be anything. I mentally move them through all kinds of possibilities and try every angle to see how they react. I imagine an entire backstory and create a complete existence for them. I mentally go over this made up reality several times and then create an outline. I put a lot of effort into tweaking the final story in outline form. Then the typing begins where I hammer out all my thoughts into Microsoft Word. In time, the results come close to my mental images.
For months after I have completed my first draft, I self-edit. My second book actually had over 30 cover to cover self-edits before it went to my beta reader (mom) for review. During this long duration of editing, I think a lot of the mechanics of the story and the specific logic. This effort uncovers plot errors and other flaws. I do my best to make my stories believable so that the reader can really put themselves into the story.
There are a few exceptions to keeping my plot in the real world. For examples, the aliens in my second book. It is difficult to write about something that doesn’t exist and I do my best and try to keep the plot remotely possible. However, I’m aware of one major plot hole in my third book. To get my story moving, I took some liberties in how a modern air conditioning system works. Apparently, there is a vent on the roof of every modern office building that sucks in a massive amount of air without a filter. My bad… In my defense, they do this in movies. A publically accepted lie?
I like to stay as close to reality for a few reasons. The first is that the story is much more relatable. The second is that I have no idea how to picture a character that is outside of my domain. For example, a comic book type superhero, a soldier in jungle combat, a child fighting against a drugged out parent or a homeless man trying to survive in China. To me, those stark realities are a bridge too far. I know that readers would immediately have strong issues with the imaginary characters I have no knowledge. An example comment would be, “This author clearly doesn’t know how a child would realistically defend themselves against an abusive father. This book is not worth reading!” The result would prevent my works from ever becoming successful and they would permanently tarnish my already fragile reputation.
In my carefully constructed mental world, I have all my characters organized and I picture what they would be doing in my made-up plot. As I get really into the process, my mind becomes focused and I try to see all the possibilities. While still in my made-up world, I do my best to capture my thoughts into my word processor. When the typing is done for the evening, it’s back to reality. The real kind of reality with family, friends, coworkers, and other normal people.
The problem is that my mind is not fully switched off and my characters are always trying to get out. For example, I want to add to the dinner conversation, “(Fictional characters name) did the craziest thing today…” I catch myself in this thought line and it takes a lot of effort not to add to the conversation with my delusions. I also get hung up in the real world. Why can’t it work like my fictional world? In my world, the people all do the right thing until the plot needs a twist. In the real world, there are long-term consequences, responsibilities, true evil, laziness, and corruption. In my fictional world, all of that negativity is there, but it’s a plot device. The people are really not really evil, just misunderstood.
I have been fortunate that I have never actually talked/posted about my characters as if they were real. Well, I have never been caught doing this. However, I feel the pull of my imagination and I know that it has led to decisions in the real world. An alternative perspective could be that I want the world to work like my imagination. I want the word to work better than it does. I want people to get along and the only conflict that exists is in my words. When I get off this blissful line of thinking, the real world is a bleak landscape where people make bad decisions.
I have read many interviews with writers and they often have lofty views on how the world works. I suppose that this is part of the creative process and this is what a writer wants to see. Their interviews sometimes show their imaginary world peeking out. They have quotes like, “(Fictional characters name) would never have voted for Trump!” Statements like that make me laugh. Is the logic not obvious that a fictional character cannot vote? To me, a statement like that is a testament to being a dedicated author that actually believes how their made up character would behave.
I think overall there is a fine line between being a sane dedicated author and a delusional author that needs professional help. Perhaps the best authors jump into this delusional world while they write and then jump back into reality for the rest of their day. Perhaps some of them have made one jump too many. History is full of amazing artists and writers who were truly mad.
For me, I will keep trying to keep my imaginary characters inside my head. I know they are safely contained and can do no harm. The good news is that I know the difference between my imagination and the real world. Well, at least I think I do. We have to remember who is writing these words. The bad news is that one is better than the other. Hopefully, the two never meet.
You’re the best -Bill
June 6, 2018
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