Truth May Be Stranger Than Fiction, But Sometimes Fiction Is Wiser

Posted: July 9, 2014 in Writing
Tags: , , , , , ,

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It has been a perilous and wonderful journey, co-writing a fantasy novel with my 13-year-old daughter. The wonderful parts include the bonding and the delight in each other’s imaginations, and those magical moments when we think exactly alike.

The perilous parts started the moment we decided to cast ourselves as the main characters.

I’ve written here before about how I took some creative liberties with my daughter’s personality and attributes to round out her fictional alter-ego, Cat, in an effort to give the fictional heroine some quirks and flaws to grow out of, and how when my daughter read the first draft of the first chapter, she was less than amused. Still 12 at the time, she did not immediately understand that in fiction you sometimes have to exaggerate things and make them larger-than-life. That the girl in the story was based on her, not what I thought of her.

The exaggeration of character was certainly not exclusive to her fictional self. My fictional self is clumsy, overweight, with unruly hair and a large nose (this is where my daughter pipes up with, “And the exaggerated parts are…?). My character is, in fact, a troll. Well, in fiction, really.

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But as with any book that you pour your heart and soul into (and in this case quite a bit of my actual personality), you begin to think of the characters as actual living and breathing people. And when that spark ignites and they become real, they start to take on a life of their own, independent of your plans. They start to take the story in directions you never anticipated. Strong, living fictional characters demand to be heard, and they will not do something that goes against their true selves ‒ no matter how important it is for your story or how thoroughly you’ve laid it down in your notes.

When that happens, it’s best to hold your breath and pray they don’t stop. Because it’s kind of like catching a soap bubble, and if you can keep it going, those parts of the story will read as absolutely authentic.

I’ve been working on this story for awhile, now, and by this point I pretty much let Dad write his own parts in the story. Dad and Cat’s relationship goes through the ringer over the course of our story, and gets seriously tested, but through it all, Dad’s love remains true, and his support and admiration for his daughter never falter, even when hers for him do. He passes his tests.

The thing is, I have begun to notice my own behavior, and I have found myself more than once asking, “What would Dad do?” Because while Dad has all of my most troll-like qualities in spades, he also represents the best parts of me. And in the fictional world, he can always do the right thing. In my actual world, I do not always have the luxury of crafting my responses or rewriting them if I don’t like how they sound once I’ve spoken them out loud.

Basically, Dad is smarter than I am. And wiser. And a better communicator.

And as weird as it may sound … I want to be more like him.

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Comments
  1. I want to be more like some of my characters, as well. Insightful post! I hope your daughter isn’t as angry anymore.

    Like

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