Fiction is addictive. It’s like the good girl’s crack. From the time I can remember, I had a book and a notebook that I carried around with me. The book was my current fiction fix. The notebook was for my current fiction writing fix. When I was small, the writing was short funny stories about my short funny family. As I got older, I dabbled in writing about the stuff that I enjoyed watching the most on television. In the 70s, that was a lot of westerns, still my favorite go-to genre.
I’m a curious person, always have been. So I don’t mind reading nonfiction about all sorts of things – people, places, history, inventions, etc. But I get part way through and my mind has spun off half a dozen or so stories based on what I have read and I find myself starting the “shakes” and it’s time for another fix. Out comes one of the books.
Why fiction? If you really think about it, it’s a pretty pitiful way to spend your time. Is there any other real way to spin it but a waste? It doesn’t contribute to anything. It’s like going to the movies. It’s two hours of your life that was basically put on hold while someone else did all the doing. Only a book is (if you read as deliciously slow as I do) more like a two week or longer movie. That’s a lot of hold time.
But all fiction is not a waste of time. I’ve learned history through Margaret Mitchell, what the world of espionage is about through Robert Ludlum, and everything from horse racing to glass blowing from Dick Francis. Some books have elicited such strong reactions from me that I can still remember where I was when I was reading it. I watched The Godfather drop out of my hands, exclaimed out loud in Marathon Man, laughed until I hurt in The Brothers K, and sobbed – not just cried, sobbed – in Redeeming Love. Those are moments I’ll take with me forever.
So now I write it. As I’ve said previously, that is partly because I have to. There’s always a story in there and I’m healthier when I let it come out. But there’s more to the therapy than that. In my NaNoWriMo book I’m writing now, I’m revisiting my long ago deceased best friend. And I am putting parts of my own personality in a character and allowing her to do things I never would, but wish I could.
Also… I’ve been sitting here for several moments with my hands on the keys wondering if I was really going to get THAT melodramatic…. Yes, yes, I am. There is something heady about having the power of creation at your fingertips. The world in this story was not there before I typed the first letter. Those people did not live and breathe until I gave them names and voices. I write fairly good nonfiction, having trained in journalism, and there’s a real rush about taking facts, ideas, and quotes and putting them together in a way that is interesting and fun to read.
But that’s got nuttin on fiction.
Escapism? Maybe. But my mind is stretched, my knowledge enriched, my world expanded by what I’ve read in fiction books. I’ve also read some that I have tossed in the nearest dumpster, not wanting to even give it away and be responsible for someone else reading it. But the good far outweighs the bad. The number of “adds” in my e-reader far outnumbers the “deletes,” making me wish there was more time.
And when I stop this happy diversion and get back to my NaNoWriMo typing, I’ll feel the power surge of stepping into a world that wasn’t there before and creating story out of the sometimes chaos of my mind, and somehow, through it, making more sense of my own world.