Fictionalizing Facts, Inventing Others

What began as one story meant to fill out the true life of a true person who lived recklessly, a dare-devil by all accounts, and died young – became more than one story. 
What is or was “true,” I came to realize, can be no more than fuzzy at best.  Take me, for instance: How I remember the events of yesterday or a year ago or the sequence of climbing out of bed and finding the coffee filters to brew a first pot of coffee a few hours ago are fuzzy.   Recollections get warped.  Did the sun wake me?  Or a barking dog?  Did I fill the coffeepot reservoir first, then put the filter into the basket – or vice versa?  Did I spill coffee grounds on the counter because I glanced up to see why the neighbor’s dog was barking?  Or was that when the wayward bird thumped into the window?  Does it matter?  Not really.  
What came to matter in the “one” story, Irene’s “true life” story, was the need to write the resemblance of a life lived true to itself, to herself.  And if my own moment-to-moment life experiences were difficult to pin down, how could I possibly capture and pen to paper the moments of Irene Lowe? 
Thus the invention of Irene Johns. 
And if a wayward bird was the cause of spilled coffee grounds in my kitchen this morning, what cause or causes may have brought a vigorous and headstrong girl such as Irene Lowe to such a life as she lived, such fortunes and misfortunes? 
Thus the invented lives of characters to surround my fictional heroine, Irene Parilee Johns.  Thus an invented grandniece to rediscover a secreted-away and long-dead aunt.  Thus an imagined Depression Era venue on Coney Island called Poseidon Park.  Thus any number of stories “true” to this writer’s imagination:  invented lives and invented places, invented events, rivalries and affections.   
No evidence of coffee grounds on my counter remains.  Only the memory, only the reconstruction of that recent incident in my thinking is yet with me.  And, other than these words recording that event, the mishap will be forgotten.  I believe wayward events happen everywhere and all the time.  Beyond the reach of the Hubble telescope, a speck of matter moves.  A few inches under the earth, worms are making choices about which way to circumnavigate a pebble lodged in their paths.  Imagination carries my beliefs, my “inventions” of what I believe to be “true.”
Thus The True Life Adventures of Irene in White Tights became.  It is what it is – inspired by a real life and true to my imaginings about the nature of we human beings – regardless of the century we are born into, or will be born into.   
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4 Comments

  1. When writing, facts often need to be invented to tell the truth of a person. It’s the presence that matters, not the wrapping.

    I’ve missed your lyrical prose! So glad you’re back.

    Reply

  2. Glad you stopped by, Pat. In the case of Irene Johns, it’s the “truth” of my invented character. There was just no way for me to know the “truth” of the person who inspired the novel. I tried, but everything I wrote was conjecture so I altered my course and reinvented everyone!

    Reply

  3. Very true, this. I am working with some material based on real people and real incidents. In order to make it more vivid and more credible I am having to invent a lot. The fact that I’m writing fiction frees me to flesh out the bare bones of the story and make it more real. I like the way you describe the process. It makes complete sense to me.

    Reply

  4. Thanks, Joseph. I’d hoped the use of small, everyday events might lend themselves to explaining my take on the process. Your comment helps me to believe they do. Appreciate the comment!

    Reply

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