Monday, July 16, 2012

Truth vs. Fiction: Monsoon Season

Since my interview yesterday with Patrick Blackburn, I've thought a lot about my own use of the real world in the stories I write. Like he said, people often make assumptions about the author even when what they write claims to be fiction. Especially when the author admits some of it is true.

But there are different kinds of truth. Patrick gave an example of a situation that had happened, but at another time. I'd like to give an example of something that happened that had a different meaning for me than for the character I attribute it to.

This is an interaction that happened between my dad and me. Nearly exactly. But it didn't mean for us what I use it to mean for Riley- which is to illuminate her strained relationship with her father. When it happened in my life, I thought two things:
  1. That was hilarious
  2. That would be a great scene in the book I'm writing
Here it is:

  At Applebee’s the silence was unavoidable. My father looked past me at a muted basketball game. He had a gash across his right eyebrow; the blood had dried thick and almost black. A bruise disappeared beneath his navy blue crew neck, presumably where the seatbelt had caught him at the shoulder, keeping him in one piece.
  He looked at me across the table. It occurred to me it might have been the first time he’d looked right at me the entire day. And then I realized he wasn’t looking at me at all. I’d thought he was making eye contact when really he was peering at a spot somewhere between my eyes. He was squinting, frowning.
  ‘You’ve got a little something . . .’ he said, his voice trailing off. He touched the bridge of his nose to indicate where.
  ‘Oh,’ I said, startled, sitting up straighter. I dipped the corner of a paper napkin into my ice water. I dabbed at my nose where he had suggested.
  He shook his head. It hadn’t worked. I held up the silver napkin dispenser to look at my reflection. It took me a moment to see what he saw.
  It was a freckle. It had been there my whole life.
  I looked up at him. He was reading the menu.
                                                                -Monsoon Season

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