I had an imaginary conversation with my mother the other day. I had just finished a story involving an alcoholic and somewhat neglectful mother and in my imaginary conversation, I was explaining to my Imaginary Mother (I have a real mother, too, but she hasn’t read this story yet. I was imagining what I would say if she did read the story) that no, that story was not a commentary on her or her job as a mother raising me. Not at all.
Imaginary Mother didn’t buy it.
“But you wrote her driving a brown Oldsmobile,” said the Imaginary Mother. “Just like we used to own.”
“I also wrote her smoking and you don’t smoke,” I said. “I also made her an alcoholic and you hardly drink.”
“You wrote about that boy I chased down in a car because he hit you,” said Imaginary Mother.
“Yes, but you actually caught him! This character didn’t catch the kid because she was drunk.”
“You didn’t even change his name!”
I went on to explain to Imaginary Mother that the bully was actually an amalgam of three different people, melded into one who looked nothing like the original one that she once chased down with her car, so it wasn’t a matter of writing a story about a single person or an incident that actually happened. None of it actually happened.
Because I write fiction.
As writers, we take bits and pieces of random parts of our lives and toss it into the blender of our unconscious when we write. Our unconscious then blends the raw pieces of our experiences with its sharp blades and the end result is something entirely new, yet still retaining the some of the taste of the former.
We watch people. We take notes. We observe the crossed arms and breathing patterns of a bored co-worker. We file away knowledge that someone never takes left hand turns and it takes them two hours to get to work each day. We take note of a statue of a monster at the foot of the stairs when we are touring a house for sale (we didn’t buy that one). We record the numerous times we have almost run over a man riding a unicycle down the street in the dark. We jot down the couple who takes their dog for a walk in a baby carriage. We remember the way our stomach hurt with hunger before lunch in third grade and our teacher wouldn’t let us walk down the hallway to the cafeteria until everyone stood perfectly silent. We recall the time we went on a carousel for the first time, the scents of old wood and machine oil. And all of that comes together in a way that blends reality into a new reality of fiction.
That’s what we do when we write. So, when people say, “Are you going to write a story about me?” The answer is probably yes. And no. And maybe. Maybe just a snippet or two of a hint of you. Mixed with everyone else, including myself.
Because I write fiction.