Random thoughts on a Monday, or Two Examples of How Writing Truth Can Sometimes Prove More Challenging Than Fiction:
1) I’m working on an essay about bullying for a YA anthology. Maybe some of you are, as well? Even if my work isn’t selected for inclusion in the publication, it’s a dark story I kept secret for a very long time–one that makes me feel lighter for its retelling.
When I read the first segment of my story to a friend, she said “Wow,” which made me exceedingly glad. Who among us doesn’t want to tug on our readers’ emotional cord? Assuming you’re going about it honestly, that is. But when she asked, quite innocently, “Did that really happen,” well. My heart plummeted. In truth, I felt anguished by that question. At least initially. I realize that some situations are too horrible to even imagine, and to even contemplate the fact that some human beings are capable of such cruelty…well, it’s almost incomprehensible, isn’t it? And yet, there is a dark underbelly to human nature — ours and others’ — and powerful stories often reside in the intersection of those shadows.
2) I’ve uncovered another situation in which truth is stranger (and arguably less believable) than fiction. Turns out, the scandal I mentioned in this post received national attention at the time of its initial unfolding. This is important for at least two reasons: 1) I’ve got documentation that the rumors were true; and 2) I need to dig through the legal archives, to follow that part of my family story to its ultimate conclusion. Or beginning, depending on how you look at things.
So…I’m fueling my roadster for a trip to El Lay this week. And I’m girding my loins, because no matter how gratifying it is to solve these Nancy Drew mysteries, there’s usually an element of sadness and surprise. Also, I’m not one who likes to dwell in shadows, and yet here I am, delving into darkness once again. I’m not afraid, mind you, as I know the Light is with and within me, guiding me forward and protecting me always. Still, if it’s not to much to ask, I’d appreciate your keeping me in your thoughts.
P.S. Imagine that one of your main characters is named Eva, and that her preacher-husband calls her Eve. Now place her — and the beginnings of their relationship — in a city of refuge called Eden City. Do you suppose some editors might suggest you scale back the irony, so as to make the story more believable? It’s certainly possible. And yet…it’s the truth. Yet another reason I’m taking such care in documenting every possible element of my memoir.