Eleanor Roosevelt once said, “The reason that fiction is more interesting than any other form of literature, to those who really like to study people, is that in fiction the author can really tell the truth without humiliating himself.”
I’ve always loved writing fiction. My mom has a hard time throwing things away, and for the last twenty years or so nearly every time I’ve seen her she’s graced me with a box filled with my past. Report cards, pictures, stories…Oh, the stories.
As a child I had a very active imagination. I was always reading, mostly things I probably shouldn’t have been reading at such a young age, like Stephen King, Dean Koontz, and low-budget novels about vampires and serial killers and things that went bump in the night. I was an avid writer as well, and, as I thumb through the words of my former self, my literary tastes are well represented. There’s the fifth grade story about whiskey-drinking vampires, the sixth grade tale of the cat bitten by the mysterious bug that turns into a flesh-eating psycho beast, and the tenth grade creative writing assignment where I introduced the world to the Schwan Man serial killer that goes on a murderous rampage at a prom after-party.
Over time my literary tastes became a little more diverse, and, while I still enjoy my sci-fi stories and mysterious thrillers, I’ve come to appreciate classics and love stories and all of the other genres that previously made my eyes roll.
Yep, as a kid my (rolling) eyes were filled with stars, envisioning a future writing amazing stories. Someday I would pen tales like the ones that kept me up until the wee hours of the morning, using a flashlight to read so no one would know, telling myself that “After the next chapter, you’re going to bed” and then finishing that chapter and saying “Just one more” until, hours later, the book finished, exhausted eyes burning, I passed out thrilled and satisfied from the power of words.
Then adulthood happened and reading and writing became solely academic and almost unenjoyable. I continued to write my stories here and there, but life got in the way. Too much “real” work, too much time with friends and family…I just couldn’t make it work. And though unfortunate happenstance made my first published work a memoir, the desire to write fiction has always been there. While I still struggle to find the time, that desire is burning stronger than ever.
If you’ve read my blog before you’ve heard me complain about finding balance, about how my two boys make it really, really hard to get anything done. (As I type this they are currently rolling around in headlocks screaming like banshees.) I can complain all I want about not having time to write. Complaining doesn’t write books, and if I’m going to do it, I need to shut up and write.
I started my current project months ago, when I was hit by the sudden inspiration to tell the story of this make-believe person that had somehow crept into my head. I wrote a few chapters, then the kids had spring break, family came to visit, etc. But the last few weeks I’ve been a writing machine. I’ve been focused and excited and eating and breathing and loving every word that comes out of my head. Today I sat down and read some of last week’s efforts, and I found myself blushing a bit.
The first thing to pop into my head: Did I really write that?
Then: That’s pretty damn awesome.
And finally: Is anyone else going to think this is awesome?
But that’s why I love writing fiction. Perhaps some of what I’m writing is my own truth, in a way. Perhaps there’s a part of me in my characters; perhaps there are parts of my friends, my family, my enemies…
And that’s what makes it interesting. Right, Mrs. Roosevelt?