Monday, October 26, 2009

making real life into fiction

It's not for the faint of heart. Or for those who worry they're going to offend. You'll surely offend someone. But if you don't take the leap and try to re-imagine the person, you're doing your work a disservice. And you'll find no audience. Of course, thinking that you can create a full blown character who is based on a real person is one thing. Doing it is quite another.

Amelia was fair game, but Muriel. I knew she'd put herself in the public eye and written two books. But she was really a much more private person. Yet I felt certain that was the story I wanted to tell. I have an older sister who I once idolized. I thought her courageous and brilliant. I believed her to be perfect. Of course real life intervened. You might say I lost that version of my sister.

I thought of Muriel growing old and losing so many people she loved. How she continued to talk about Amelia. How she kept the faith. I wondered how that would really feel. I told myself that she was human, as was Amelia. Human beings aren't saintly. They're full of all sorts of interesting flaws. It's the imperfections that charm us. And gall us.

Amelia might have seemed saintly to the world, but not to Muriel. Muriel knew her better than anyone.

Thinking that, I began to write . . .

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