Recycling the Writing of Reality

During the process of migrating from Blogger to WordPress I lost a few early posts. For some unknown reason they didn’t transfer and since nobody ever read them it seemed a shame they got abandoned down in Google’s basement. I’ve resurrected them here just for you. Sweet!

Fresh from the compost heap:

Recently I’ve run into several people who are writing memoir. I have nothing against a good life story, but find myself a bit skeptical about the value for most readers. I’m jaded enough to enjoy the mishaps that befall the unwary, but I don’t want to read about a lifetime of such events.

This brought to mind the challenge of writing about real life. I had an experience a couple of months ago that falls into this arena because if I read it in a story I’d sneer, make a snide comment and skip on to the next bit of dialogue. But it really happened.

You’re thinking, so what? Exactly my point. Just because something happens doesn’t mean you can get away with using it in fiction. Here is a quick synopsis of my train journey that was so WTF? – I think it’s worth sharing.

The scene opened with an intriguingly tattooed man and a lot of time to edit my current novel. The middle of the story was rife with exciting events involving torrential rains, volatile winds, fallen trees, broken windows, conflict between passengers, and a lot of alcohol consumption while the train sat stranded in a mountain pass. The end was expectedly twisty with our abscondment (I’m coining that word now), of the relief engineer from the southbound train, a clever deaf boy, a landslide at the stateline, and a denouement come full circle via Greyhound bus. We arrived only 7 hours behind schedule.

The trip was surreal enough to be fabricated, which is where that whole truth-is-stranger-than-fiction thing figures into the equation. I don’t know why other folks never have such experiences. Obviously some of them do because I was not alone on the Coast Starlight.

….but I was perhaps the only one having a really good time.

  1. #1 by Diana Murdock on January 28, 2012 - 9:28 pm

    So…tell me more! You have my attention, Les!

    • #2 by Leslie on January 29, 2012 - 9:42 pm

      Okay, so the guy with the tattoos was FULLY tattooed, including his face. The designs were gorgeous, a mixture of traditional Nordic and modern stuff. He was pretty reticent but I persisted until he gave in and talked to me. He left the train a couple hours later so I didn’t get to learn as much as I wanted. The rest of the trip was pretty surreal, lots of whining and complaining – which was pointless considering the train people can’t control the weather (as far as I know…?), but it was pretty hilarious. I was happily pounding away on the keyboard taking notes, making observations and editing.

      I’m also easily amused. It’s a gift!

  2. #3 by Angela Wallace on January 29, 2012 - 8:39 am

    Haha, that’s great. I’ve been told I should write a memoir–oddly, by people who weren’t really interested in my fiction. The idea seems daunting, plus I think I’m too young, but I may write one someday, give a chance for all the stuff that’s happened to me to mean something.

    • #4 by Leslie on January 29, 2012 - 9:37 pm

      I think you’re right. Writing a memoir is totally daunting! Think of all the facts you need to get straight, all the cross-checking for accuracy (cause we never remember things right), and then all the cleaning up the things you DON’T want to share. OF course you’re a sweet nice person so you don’t have any skeletons to shove back in the closet.

      If I ever write a memoir it’ll be published when I’m too old for anybody to yell about it…by then I might have even done something interesting enough to include!

  3. #5 by Natalie Hartford on January 29, 2012 - 9:15 am

    Wowzers, sounds like quite the ride! I am glad you made out ok. Definite story worthy! 🙂

    • #6 by Leslie on January 29, 2012 - 9:34 pm

      It was quite the ride. The worst part of it was having to exit the train and climb on the greyhound…stinky and crowded after 26 hours on the train with these people. There were two buses and I got the one loaded with the rock band and the hip-hop group. They sang BEATLES songs all the way. I don’t like the Beatles. I know that’s sacrilege.

      I was SO ready to get off the bus!

  4. #7 by Bridgette Booth on January 29, 2012 - 9:41 am

    Ah, I enjoy memoirs but have never considered writing one. I have a hard enough time getting 400 words for a slice of life blog post, I’d weep if I thought I needed to write 70,000 to 100,000 words. Blogging has taught me that I’m really not that interesting. lol.

    Now, about that train ride. . . if you can have a really good time through all of that then you’ve got some wisdom to share!

    • #8 by Leslie on January 29, 2012 - 9:32 pm

      That’s how I feel about memoir. I’ve read some that were really interesting but I wonder how the authors do it. Writing about experiences in my life is awkward enough for a blog entry. It takes me forever to find something interesting enough to share that I think other people might get a kick out of. I’m sure it helps when you’re involved in activities that help people, etc.

      The train ride was a hoot! I love watching people and that was SUCH a crazy trip…

  5. #9 by Elena Aitken on January 30, 2012 - 8:39 am

    I love these stranger than fiction moments. Those moments where you say, “I couldn’t make this s*&# up if I tried!”
    LOVE it!
    And no…there won’t be a memoir in my future. I have way more fun making up characters to do awful things to. 🙂

    • #10 by Leslie on January 30, 2012 - 8:30 pm

      I think about those moments when I read something that seems outlandish and usually reconsider…because strange and weird things do happen! I’m with you – making up troublesome events for my characters (and letting them get through them) is way more fun than writing about my boring life.

  6. #11 by Angela Orlowski-Peart on January 31, 2012 - 3:01 pm

    I have never tried to write a memoir but who knows… maybe one day? But who would read it – my hubby (uhm, better no), my kids and my mother (definitely a no).

    I’m slowly inching closer to switching from the dreadful Blogger to WordPress too. I wonder why the older posts didn’t transfer. But I take you were able to recover them anyway? How does this work?

    • #12 by Leslie on January 31, 2012 - 4:40 pm

      That’s my struggle too – the things you really should discuss in a memoir, I don’t really want anyone else to know about. That’s what keeping secrets is all about, right?!

      I really liked Blogger because the user interface was really easy and fast, but eventually it didn’t offer enough functionality (like I’m doing something tough here…). The transition was very easy – they do pretty much everything for you. I ran into some problems because I had migrated from a now-defunct platform to Blogger and then on to WP. I’m sure it would be helpful to have the input of someone who KNOWS what they’re doing. Eventually I just shrugged and decided to let ‘er rip. Most everything made it across. Occasionally one of my older posts shows up as a missing (404) file (I don’t know why since it’s there). I’m sure there’s a way to fix that too but I haven’t worried about it…

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