Thursday, May 28, 2015

Did that really happen?

by Giselle Renarde

A few months ago, I devoured a book of funny little stories about living with roommates. The reason I picked up The Roommates: True Tales of Friendship, Rivalry, Romance, and Disturbingly Close Quarters is that I've never lived with people. Well, I lived with family, growing up, but I've lived alone all my adult life.

I was curious about the lifestyle. I wanted to know what it was really like to have roommates. One of my sisters has lived with tons of friends, fellow university students, even strangers. And has she got tales to tell! That's what I hoped to find in this book.

And I totally did! Truth stranger than fiction--that sort of thing. Do you ever experience something in your life and go, "Man, if I wrote this in a story readers would say, THAT COULD NEVER HAPPEN"? I love stuff like that.

(By the way, I just looked up The Roommates on Amazon and it had nothing but poor reviews, so I left a positive one.  Do you ever love a book, then see all these terrible customer reviews and wonder if you're stupid or something? Like, what did I miss?)


Next week, my third book of erotic confessions hits the market. The first one was Secret Confessions (a veritable smorgasbord of erotica), the second was Sapphic Confessions (all lesbians, all the time!), and this one will be called Spicy Confessions: 12 Steamy Sex Stories.

I've written a lot of letter-style erotica over the years. That's pretty much how I started my career in this industry. Are all my confessions true? Ummm... no. Are some of them true. Well... yes.

What's the appeal of confessional erotica? It's gotta be the curiosity factor. I'm curious about roommates because I've never had roommates. Readers are curious about sex because they've never had sex.

Wait... that doesn't sound right. Maybe readers just want to know what's going on in other people's bedrooms. Maybe they want to draw ideas from other people's experiences. Maybe they haven't had THAT kind of sex. Maybe they have had that kind of sex and want to read about other people's experience of same--good, bad or mediocre.

I'm upfront in my Confessions books about some stories being true and some being false. Actually, some are in between as well. Some are things I wish had happened.

Ultimately, how much would a reader care if a story they thought was true wasn't really?

If you told me none of the stories in The Roommates were true, it honestly wouldn't matter to me. I was entertained by the book. That's good enough for me.

I'm the same way with ghost stories. I think I've mentioned before that I love those "my real ghost story" TV shows. Do I necessarily believe everything the interviewees tell the camera? I kind of think I don't believe or disbelieve them. I don't think people are lying, but I also know TV is there to entertain me, and a lot of that entertainment involves deception.

So, what's your take on true sex stories, or true anything stories? Why do people crave them? And does it matter if they really are true?


  1. Personally, I think the distinction between truth and fiction is extremely important, and it troubles me when fictitious events or narratives are deliberately represented as true ones. This is more than simply an artistic issue for me: I am very concerned about people believing things that are false, because I think this can have all sorts of negative consequences. So fiction, obviously, is fine. Narratives that avowedly blend fact and fiction are fine—like what it sounds like you're doing, Giselle, "some of this really happened and some didn't, and I'm not going to say which is which." What is not fine, to me, is "this is a true story" when it isn't. (And, yes, I realize of course that someone can innocently misremember or misunderstand events as "true" in a way that they aren't exactly—which is why we look for corroboration and evidence for the most important stories—but I'm not talking about the vagaries of memory and interpretation. I'm talking about willful deception.) To those who might say "What difference does it make?" one thing I would point out is that people who deliberately peddle fiction as truth do so presumably because it will make a difference in how much attention and importance their stories are granted.

    Even for pure entertainment purposes, I like knowing whether I'm enjoying a true tale or an invented one. My appreciation for a funny anecdote or quip has a different flavor and intensity when I believe it's an account of a real incident rather than something someone made up. Funny things are often funnier to me if they really happened, because there's that "wow" factor; and a funny quip that a wit spouted spontaneously in real life and in real time is more impressive than one contrived at the writing desk.

    1. I think I'm just so jaded and mistrustful (is that a word?) that I don't truly believe anything. Probably comes from being raised by a manipulative father who lied to everybody all the time. Oh, and my mother covered up for his drinking by lying, too. I didn't stand a chance.

  2. One of my DH's favorite sayings is "There is no reality". The older I get, the more correct this seems. Not to mention the more I write.

    Just the other day I was talking with him about the Dakota, the legendary building where John Lennon was murdered and Rosemary's Baby was set.. And I was about to say, "Oh, yes, I've been inside..." when I realized I had not, in fact, ever set foot in the place. I'd written a novella with a scene set in the Dakota, and imagined it so vividly that for a moment, I believed I'd actually ventured inside that iconic place..

    The same thing occurs with sexual experience. I've written dozens of scenes based to a greater or lesser degree on my relationship with my master. Now the fictional has become so tightly entwined with the historical that I get confused. Did he ever cane me? Or feel me up in a hardware store? Or spank me until I'd come?

    Sometimes I have to think hard to answer. And I'm sure that I have dozens of memories that flow not from what "really" happened, but from fantasy.

    1. I'm the same way. There are so many based-on-life stories I've written that I honestly don't remember what really happened. And as I get lazier in life, I tend to write about things instead of doing them.

  3. Agree with Jeremy in that a true story has a particular appeal, knowing the act or acts have actually happened to someone, even considering poetic license. One problem with true stories is that they seldom have final resolution because life goes on. Goes on with the experience behind us but influencing the future just the same.

    I recently proposed a theme of 'Truthiness' to the other ERWA editors. We'll see what develops with that.

    1. My sister recently told me about being approached by a man with a hard-luck story. She was with my mom at the time. My mom believed every word he said. My sister didn't believe anything. When the man asked them for change, my mother and my sister both gave him some. My mom was eager to help him out. My sister was paying him for a good story.

  4. Quite a few of my stories are truth based, built around situations I've been involved in during my life - excluding the vampires of course. The problem is most of what happened didn't end up happily, so I had to blur the truth for HEA. Oh well.

  5. I mind when writers say things are true when they aren't, but I suppose I can only mind that if I know it. When I edited a book of "True sex stories," I generally had fairy good reasons to believe that the writers could be telling the truth--some of them I knew a goo deal about, some voluntary offered corroborating information, and in one case, with a story I wasn't planning to use because I couldn't believe it, I found out that a staff member in my publisher's office had actually herd about that wild party, which had taken place in the Bsy Area,

    With my own writing, I'd just as soon readers didn't know what parts get all too close to the truth.

    1. I mind when writers say things are true when they aren't, but I suppose I can only mind that if I know it.

      I manage to mind it even if I don't know it: that is, I know that the writer may well be lying when saying something is true, and I resent having to keep that possibility in mind and hold back from believing in it.

    2. I recommend "Entangled Lives", memoirs of seven authors edited by Marilyn Jaye Lewis.

      You can tell these tales are true (to the extent that the writers can make them so).

      In contrast, Alison Tyler's "Dark Secret Love" feels real, but embroidered. (Still very good, though.)

  6. This is a really interesting issue. I worry a lot about the other direction—truth that works its way into fiction. I don't want to violate anyone's privacy, so I'm really wary of lovers appearing in my stories. And yet my mind seems to obsess on certain things that do have their roots in truth. Sometimes, I feel like I should come with a warning label... I know some writers embrace that proudly, but I tend to feel nervous about it.


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