Real or Fiction: Where does one begin?
by Shirley Hailstock
I recently read an author’s blog about writing from or about real life. Many authors do this, myself included. However, until I read her blog, I thought most of what I wrote was fiction, made up, not associated with the real world, but of a world I created. I never use people I know in my stories. I tried using the name of a relative once and found I was making the character that person.
This is not to say that the attributes of characters I write about are not from real people. All of them are. But shortly after introducing a character, they take on a life of their own and the author can only record what they say and do.
The stories I write come from the heart, from past experiences or from emotions that I’ve experienced or can tap into, empathize with. They reveal a lot about the writer. This is why the stories we find most endearing are the ones that have an underlying truth to them. It’s not “in your face” truth, but subtle, the kind that touches the emotional nerves and basically rings our bells. As readers, they draw us in, identify the same emotions the reader has, giving the reader an experience that is safe while it can make the heart beat faster, return them to the memory of a first love, or have them living vicariously through the pages.
We all have favorite authors. For several of mine, I’ve done binge reading of their books, usually fifteen titles in a row. I do this to learn about writing, but the by-product of this method is I learn a lot about that author, their views on the world, what they read, what political stand they have and what kind of person they are.
This may seem like an audacious comment since most authors are introverts and do not want to put their lives out in the world. However, as an author, our stories reveal that we’ve opened a vein and poured our blood into the stories. This is honesty. It’s real. It’s the truth. And it makes for vivid stories that glue the reader to her/his chair as the author takes them on an adventure. And within that adventure, in between the lines and pages and chapters, inside the world created by the author, is the truth of the author’s conscious, her/his values, her/his life.
So the next time you pick up a book to read, handle it carefully and remember you’re holding the author’s heart in your hands.