Wednesday, August 17, 2016
On Stories, Fact, and Fiction
I've been reading and writing so long, that I legitimately can't remember a time in my life when I didn't do those things. It only stands to reason that I've fallen in love with all kinds of stories over the years -- everything from fairy tales and epic adventures to high-brow literary fiction. However, I think the stories I like most these days are the ones that are anchored in reality to at least some extent.
It doesn't have to be a straight up non-fiction story or anything, but it's nice if it's at least inspired by events, people, places, or ideas from the author's actual life. I like knowing that that person is sharing little bits of their world with their readers. A given story just doesn't really feel "complete" to me without that.
That's been the case for me since I was a kid. Even when I reached for my fairy tale books, the experience of enjoying them was only partly about being entertained by the story itself. My favorite part of the process was actually learning the origins of those tales and the meanings behind them. I absolutely loved annotated versions of different books for that reason. I know it seems weird to imagine a 10-year-old being interested in the cultural context of Hansel and Gretel or in being able to identify the political satire in Alice in Wonderland, but that's the kind of child I was. I liked reading stories and then picking them apart afterward so I could fully understand what I'd just read.
This has only become more the case as I've grown older. I've learned to shape my reality instead of constantly trying to escape from it the way I did as a young person. As a result, the need to understand the inspiration or real-life connections in a given story is even more important to me than it used to be. I love memoirs, historical fiction, and stories that tackle abstract social concepts for that reason. I don't write nearly as much fiction or poetry as I once did, but when I do, I strive to write the same types of stories I most enjoy reading. The type built on a foundation of meaning and personal connection that I like to picture potential readers appreciating one day in exactly the way I used to.