Forays into Fiction
I never dreamed I’d become a fiction writer. Nope. Not in a million years. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to write short stories or novels, it was just that the thought had never crossed my mind (really).
As my writerly identity has become more fluid these past few years, I’ve found myself dabbling in creative nonfiction — essays or short stories based on an actual event, recounted using literary techniques. I’ve published a few, but have been saving most of them for my pet project, a book of short stories.
I pull out this manuscript a few times per month to edit, refresh, refine and add more “literary stuff” to the growing number of pages. Last week, I noticed that some of these “creative nonfiction” pieces had morphed (seemingly on their own) into fiction. I had expanded the scope of the characters, “nuanced” (read: completely changed) some of the major events, and rearranged the chronologies.
Grains of nonfiction still exist, to be sure. But now, instead of germinating into factual accounts, they pepper largely fictional narratives. The authorial voice that was once “mine” (as in the autobiographical Jen) is now an amalgamation of characters I have read or met. Likewise, the story about “my dad” has shifted into a story about “a dad” who happens to share traits or personal histories with 2-3 other dads I know.
I was having coffee with a friend last week (who also happens to be an author I respect very much) and revealed to her that I had been writing fiction. Pleasantly surprised, she asked to see it. Cue my litany of “well, I just dabble,” “it’s really not that good, I wouldn’t want to waste your time,” etc., etc. She looked at me and said “Wait, stop the self-effacement. What are the specific issues with it, what’s the thing you struggle with the most?”
“I never trained to write like this,” I responded (not really answering her question). There it was. I felt like an imposter– I hadn’t set out to write fiction, it happened organically (no, it happened by accident).
“Who cares?” she insisted. “If you are enjoying it, keep doing it. I can’t wait to read it.”
I am enjoying it. I’m definitely going to keep doing it. The stories keep coming, my fingers can’t keep up with the images, voices and truths (not “the Truth”– multiple truths are so much more interesting) in my head. Yes, today is a good day to write fiction.