Friday, March 19, 2010

The reality within the fiction ...

As we discovered last week, and over the course of a few other posts, I am not that adventurous of a person.

So I kind of get a kick out of people's reactions when they find out what I write. Some people who have known me for years start to get a look in their eyes when they look at me after finding out. Almost like they expect me to have a closet full of leather and lace, and a toy chest full of B.O.B.s Others, those who actually stop and reflect over some of the conversations we have had, know that I haven't done all that I have written about.

The university I went to before moving to where I am now (I tranferred because the university sucked!) had a "guest author/lecturer" and my composition 2 professor and I used to sit and laugh about the man's lack of brains. Because the guest lecturer was a local author, and an alumni, he was treated like a veriable literary god. (His book, in short, was a wall banger of the first order!)

During our freshman orientation, we were given a copy of his book and instructed to read it. Our assignments were based around the book, from learning to use the library to find crap from the book, to other such piddle. (Um, it's no wonder he had such a good Amazon sales rank - with 250+ copies per semester being ordered by the campus).

One of our assignments was to write a review of his book, and since at the time I was doing prefessional reviews, I refused. I wasn't about to risk my grade by writing my true thoughts, and I wasn't about to lend any credibility to the pile of drivel that he passed off as a book.

But back to the point of this post ... my professor and I had a long talk one evening about truth in fiction. The guest author/lecturer actually made a point of saying in one of his lectures to write what you know, and not to push too much beyond that because you start to lose credibility. (Keep in mind, he was not talking about writing non-fiction).

Um ... WTF?!?!?!

Yeah, King is really a homicidal whatever (depending on the book), Patterson tracks down criminals for a living, and Rice used to dance with vampires. Oh, and let's not forget all those writers who have lived on other planets and battled in space! Yep ... they are writing what they know.

Then again, having read the book, which was set in the Appalachian Mts in a small town, and had tons of taboo issues as well as completely flat characters, I can see where he might have been writing from reality. Flat life = flat writing.

My professor and I laughed and laughed about that, because while some truth can and does often shine through in a true writer's stories, they are more vivid and real for their fantasy. Regardless of genre. Imagination sparks the truth of a writer more than life experience. Anyone can have grand adventures ... but not everyone can transport another into the moment.

So while there are some stories of mine that have kernels of truth in them, they are the exceptions, not the rule. But the reactions I get from people can be entertaining. : )

As for whether or not I have a toychest filled with B.O.B.s ... well, I guess that is for another topic.


  1. Michelle,

    I love this

    "Anyone can have grand adventures ... but not everyone can transport another into the moment."

    What a great post. (And you know we're curious who this writer is)

  2. Michelle,

    It certainly sounds like the university sucked. One of my current tutors is published in a pedagogical core text. She plays it low key, advising students which texts are worth looking at, and hasn't once mentioned her own contribution to the potential material we may use.

    I think some people can be captivated by the glamour of their own non-achievements.

    Great post!


  3. Hey JM,

    After reading Ash's post yesterday, I wondered where you'd go with this topic. What a great post lady!

    That saying, 'write what you know', I'm sure was penned by a non-writer. Our books are escapism lit, and although I've got to admit I'd love to have done more of what I've written about, I'd have to be much, much older and built with interchangeable parts. *G*


  4. Kathleen -- Thanks. : ) I'll email you the name if you really must know.

    Ash -- One of the professors here used a textbook for his class, and contacted the editors for some revisions and wound up being the third editor on the latest edition. He donates his share of the royalties for our sales (since he still uses the book) to something within the campus. I think it was a scholarship fund, but I can't remember right off. But he wanted us to know that his $4 a book (out of a $120 textbook) didn't go to his pocket when it was our copies.

    Jude -- Thanks hon. Yeah, I understand adding in some of what you know to your writing, but you don't have to be limited by it. : )

  5. Hi, Michelle,

    Maybe, since you need to "write what you know", you should create a character based on that professor...!


  6. I don't want to know the name. It ruins all the fun of speculation.


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