Wednesday, June 5, 2013

IWSG: The Reality Behind The Fiction

One of the amazing perks of spending time at BEA (BookExpo America), is the opportunity to meet authors, see them speak and to learn from them. Last week I tried to get to as many panels with authors speaking as possible. On this trip there appeared to be one main lesson the fates wanted me to learn: most fiction (if not all) is born out of reality. I suppose this is something I knew one way or another, but I had deluded myself in the sense of how much of a reality can still be alive in the words and worlds of a fictional tale once it is done.

Sara Farizan is the author of a YA novel called If You Could Be Mine that is coming out this August. This will be her novel and while I have not started reading my copy of it, I am looking forward to it. It is the story of a seventeen year old Iranian girl, Sahar. Sahar is gay and has been in love with her best friend since she was six years old. The story centers around her family dealing with this reality, while also trying to protect her, in Iran where homosexuality is a crime, but sex reassignment is legal and accessible.

When Sara introduced herself to the crowd who came to see her speak, she began with, "I'm super gay," and, as you may have already guessed, she is Iranian. Sara wrote the story of what could have been her own life if her parents hadn't moved to America. She went back to Iran to research the world she could have lived in and wrote what could have been her life story.

When it came time for me to see the author I waited all week for, the lesson sang true again as Neil Gaiman spoke about the inspiration for his new novel, The Ocean At The End Of The Lane. This was particularly compelling to me, as I tend to think of Mr. Gaiman as a fantasy writer. Again, the idea that works of fiction are based in reality is not one that is new to me, but when Neil spoke of the farm down the lane from his childhood home, the secrets his father kept from him and the family he always dreamed of writing about - all of these things that didn't just feel like the shadow of a basis for a story, but true stories in their own rights, I began to see how much one's reality can safely bleed into their work without it being memoir. I began to understand that one's story can mark the first steps in the "once upon a time..."

I started to wonder why I have been working so hard to try and make stuff up. I began to wonder what about my ordinary life could be transformed into extraordinary fiction. Is there something in my past? Something I observed, or lived, that is waiting to be fictionalized?

The answers to those questions are, of course: yes and yes. The bigger question this insecure writer has to ask herself, then, is, Am I ready to tell those stories? That is the hard part.

I am nervous about diving into that end of the pool, but when I think of those I saw this week, I realize that this leap of courage can come at any moment. Sara Farizan is a debut novelist who used her life as inspiration for her MFA thesis. Perhaps she was brave enough because she didn't think it would reach a public audience. Neil Gaiman, on the other hand, has had this family in his head for years. He mentioned them in Stardust and The Graveyard Book before bringing their full story to life now. So I don't know if my reality will make its way to my fiction yet. I don't even think I am ready for it. However, I am worried that my fiction will continue to fail until the day I am courageous enough to fully embrace the reality that belongs there.

When you are writing fiction, how close to your reality does your writing get?


  1. doreenmcgettiganJune 6, 2013 at 7:42 AM

    I agree writing what you know is always the best place to dive...
    I write nonfiction but am looking forwarding to creating some fiction.

  2. I know there are definitely aspects of "what I know" in my writing, I just couldn't believe how MUCH of what these authors knew was in their writing. I think I have held myself back from adding so much of the stories I have overheard in my writing.

  3. From what I heard, you are well prepared to dive in at any moment with your nonfiction experience!

  4. Elements of what you know will shine through in your writing I think. Be that facts, circumstances or emotions. Sorry I'm a bit late been trying to catch up with the posts from Wednesday. Nice to visit you through the hop.

    IWSG co-hots (June)

  5. No need to apologize! I was super-late in posting as it was!! Thanks for stopping by :)

  6. So today I did that, while in a Barnes & Noble Cafe and I got all teary eyed! I will have to gauge my emotional writing when I am in public! ;)