Saturday, April 16, 2011


There is the phrase that goes, "Be careful what you do around an author.  You may just show up in their book someday."  or..."Don't ever date a writer. They'll turn you into literature."  Something like that.  I'm sure there are bumper stickers out there or something.

The phrases are true.  I'm sorry, but what else are we to glean from?  Our imagination can only go so far.  And even then, imagination is only creation based off of things that we've experienced.  For characters, any character we create contains bits and pieces of people we've observed or know.  It is not necessarily an insult or an honor to be portrayed in this way; I almost guarantee at least 80% of the time for the average writer the use of your character traits is entirely subconscious.

I wrote this for a writing exercise in college, and the paragraph still means a lot to me.  The exercise was to write a disclaimer for something, so I wrote a disclaimer for books or writing.
I have to warn you.  Most people think that when people write stories, they are fake, fiction, figments of zealous imagination.  But I’m telling you, and perhaps ruining the grand secret: our stories are most often based on truth.  Well, yes, we have to change that one thing, toss in new names, and flip that one pathway around, just to disguise the fact that we aren’t really all that creative but just intrigued by life and its intricacies.  But the hard part may be, for some of us, that our life really isn’t that interesting, so we take these nuggets of truth, little instances and moments, small handfuls of human existence, and try to contain it inside the confines of the written word.  So, what I guess truth in this story is that there is no such thing as pure fiction.  
I don't want to debunk fiction or to make it any less of a creative art.  Its just that I write because I love life.  Everything is so intricate and complex, yet increasingly simple at the same time.  The world is a paradox unto itself, and holds so many mysteries.  I like to create and to make up worlds that don't exist and people that don't exist but somehow are just as real to me as the chair that I am sitting on.  And yes, that was entirely cliché, but hey...I like well-timed clichés now and again.

Have fun gleaning information from people's lives (with respect and discretion, of course).  Ron Carlson used an entire lecture devoted to teaching us how to write examples from real life but disguise them so that the people involved won't be able to tell.  Asking permission is always great, but sometimes you just can't do that.  So change everything, every detail.  If it was set in the summer, put it into the winter.  If it involves a boy named Robby, rename him Edward.  If she has three kids, give her one.  Change all the details.

I think, if one has to define it, creativity is taking pieces of what God has created and fiddling around with them.