Fiction or non? The question reminds me of the days of yore (i. e., the 1980s—my childhood) when restaurants would ask you: smoking or non? But much like those questionably-defined sections in restaurants, where the smoke would drift indiscriminately around, the question in writing of fiction or non? is not always easy to define.
Last week my writing group was working with the idea of truth in fiction, and I wrote a short story based on an experience that I had had in my life. It was fictionalized, but there I was, on the page, albeit with a different name. I rarely translate my memories so literally into my writing, so it was a strange feeling.
It gave me a chance to think about how reality and imagination collide and interact. And I remembered that, several years ago, in a storytelling class I was taking, my teacher wrote on the chalkboard a sentence that really struck me:
“Storytelling is the soul’s speech and it is free to move between realities
of imagination and literal events.”
I think this is a good response to fiction or non? I wrote it down at the time because it felt freeing to think that I could move back and forth, that something could have elements of both literal life and imagination, and didn’t have to be all one or the other.
When I was working on the writing group exercise, I was oddly preoccupied with finding a 50/50 balance between the truth and the fiction, and it wasn’t until afterwards that I thought to wonder why. Why not lean all-in to truth, and then have a fire-breathing alien-monster appear? Why not write a vampire fantasy that your great-aunt suddenly shows up in? Why not have fun with it?
At the moment, I’m quite enjoying messing around with the interplay of truth and fiction. It lets me colour outside the lines a bit, and it keeps me from getting too serious.
Want to try it?
Writing Prompt 1: Write a short story/poem/vignette/essay about something that happened to you in your life, with a fictional twist.
Writing Prompt 2: Write a short story/poem/vignette/essay about a world where magic is real and commonly used, and insert something/someone from your lived experience into it.