Sunday, October 18, 2009

My Sympathies to James Frey

WIth this whole "write a novel in a month" idea I so cleaverly dedicated myself to, I didn't stop to think, what do I really have to write about? I had collected snips and snapshots of moments from my life in quick and dirty memoir pieces. I had outlined a couple of novel ideas...but that was the problem. What do I have that is "novel?" What I mean is what do I have that is 1) fresh and 2) fiction? What I had were a few hurried moments of writing when I felt compelled to write, but these moments often produced the truth (not fiction). Okay, well how can I use my memories, my experiences, and my emotions to build a character that propels a reader-worthy story? I thought at first I'd be brilliant and try to interpose fiction and fact. I could "trick" the reader into believing it was all fiction when in fact 90% was fact and I was selfishly rewriting my own ending of choice. This wasn't fair, to me or a reader.

Mainly it wasn't fair to me. In trying to write the truth from a detached "this is my creation" point of view I became sulky. My writing was sulky. I can't write the truth and pretend it is anything other than what it is. This, unfortunately, does not a novel make. James Frey so publicly demonstrated this with the backlash from his "memoir" piece Oprah whipped him with on national T.V. I understand a little bit of his possible reasoning--who doesn't want to be the epic version of herself?

But, it did give me a place to outline of a story with the sketches of characters I had dreamt of on a night train from Barcelona to Paris with a good friend. Based on reality, based on my own experiences, but not me. This is much safer. This is fiction. I can write about her and not have to relive my own painful moments. I can give her choices I didn't have as my own little experiment in storytelling but remain true to the character and not bend her to reflect my own preferences.

So, Chapter 1 that is posted here is that little flash of an opening scene that Jenn Morgan and I giggled over excitedly on a night train over three years ago.

The "Prologue" piece was my attempt to salvage some of the pieces I have that are utterly and 100% me as well as the "Bedouin Nights" piece. Those will not make fiction, it would be unfair. So, I'm holding on to them, but those cute little suburban teenagers falling in love at a party will not make an appearance in this novel. Not in any recognizable form at least.

Happy writing!

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