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Saturday, October 5, 2013

I Owe No Allegiance to the Facts


Like many people who write, I spend a lot of time in my own head. It’s pleasant in there. The skies are blue; the barometric pressure, steady; the edges, rounded; the unsavory facts encased in bubble wrap and unable to hurt anyone.

It’s nice, in my head.

And as can be expected by someone with a limited loyalty insofar as reality is concerned, I make stuff up.

And sometimes, people who should know better mistake my stories for truth.

Years ago, I wrote a piece as part of a writing exercise. Certain elements were to be present: danger, colorful dialogue, humor, resolution.

There was never mention made that it must be true.

So I made it up. I used an actual vacation I had taken, made up some names, created both situation and dialogue. It was published online and quickly forgotten.

Or so I thought.

Months later, at a party, I am approached by a woman whose name I had used in that story.

“You remember that, Pearl? You remember that night? Everyone, this is Pearl. She’s the one I was telling you about.”

I shift my beer from one hand to another, look around the room. Linda is a dramatic and insecure person prone to both hysteria and self-aggrandizement. She wears me out.

“What night are you talking about?”

“You know! The story! Remember that?” While I run my eyes over the rest of the room, looking for a way out of this conversation, she lays out everything I had written, quotes it extensively. A crowd gathers as she relates the fictional tale as something she personally experienced, adds details not in the original story implying that she saved me from a dangerous situation and that I, being young and foolish at the time of said story, owed her a debt.

Linda laughingly finishes up by saying, “Really, Pearl, you need to be more careful.”

Mary appears at my elbow. “None of that happened, did it?” she whispers.

“Not a word of it!” I hiss. “What in the world is she talking about?”

Mary laughs. “This is what you get for writing a story using her name. What’d you use her name for anyway?”

I shake my head. “It was just a name, just a location. Now she thinks it’s real!”

“You going to call her on it? She’s made herself out to be a hero!”

And you know, I thought about it. I wanted to, but I couldn’t. As annoying and needy as Linda is, I couldn’t take away a story that made her a hero.

Like I said, it’s pleasant in my head. Even when what’s in there is fueled entirely by the imagination.

27 comments:

Dawn@Lighten Up! said...

Ah, well. I suppose everyone deserves to be a hero now and then. Even the Lindas.
I'm glad we have Pearl's head and all its stories. :)

Yamini MacLean said...

Hari OM
OOOhh yes I had that shifty experience - and the one where the participants couldn't get that things had to be "stretched" for their own privacy's sake and wanted the blow by blow account.

Damned if you do and damned if you don't. Stay true to you. That's the best place to be. YAM xx

Starting Over, Accepting Changes - Maybe said...

Some of your stories are made up, oh my, say it isn't so Pearl. How will I explain this to my house cats, Thelma and Louise who have read both your books.

Joanne Noragon said...

I have said forever that nothing enhances a good story like omitting the truth. Most of us realize that stories are just that--stories.

vanilla said...

The reason, I think, that so many people can't see the line between fact and fiction is that their lives are so desperately empty that they will grasp for any straw floating in their troubled sea. I am so happy for you, though, that it is peaceful and pleasant inside your head.

joeh said...

Sometimes I am challenged on facts in my posts. I advise that I never let truth or facts get in the way of a good story.

Every year I meet with old friends from college. It is now almost 50 years since we all first met. There were good times and good stories, but those good times and stories keep improving every year.

Delores said...

Now you have left me doubting things like...maybe your cats DON'T talk and drive the car...and maybe, just maybe, your car isn't really a piece of sheet. son of a gun...you just can't trust everything you read

Launna said...

Hahaha... wow... people will do anything or make up anything to feel like they are somebody:) Cute story Pearl (next time you will have to make up a fictional name too:)

Sioux said...

Inside my head? It's not always a pleasant place.

People will NOT quote your stories and claim their part in them if you:

* make the men have miniscule, misshapen penises

* adorn the women with ugly, hairy warts in unusual places

Try it. If you make them hideous, they WILL NOT come...

jenny_o said...

But ... but ... it's on the internets ... it HAS to be true ...

goatman said...


Poetic, or literary license can be a bitch.
But the stories are so much more interesting with imagination.
Always change a thing whilst wandering through the blue-mind mist.

BLissed-Out Grandma said...

You are a great and imaginative story-teller. Nobody ever tries to worm their way into my stories! It was kind of you to let Linda have her moment. And I bet next time you'll create a fictitious name.

Jeanie said...

You are a hero for letting Linda be a hero. As for what goes on it your head,well...just keep it going on.

Susan Kane said...

Gotta be careful with names. I try to use bland ones or ones from decades ago. so far I've been lucky.

Elephant's Child said...

Those of us with less comfortable and/or innovative heads HAVE to claim the work of others. And it is a kind of flattery...

bill lisleman said...

Be honest Pearl. Did you for a brief second wonder if it really DID HAPPEN?
Our minds play tricks on us all the time. I suspect one part of your mind owes the other part big time.

Esme Weatherwax said...

Pearl - much faff and several botched attempts later (via patchy signal wheezing fitful spurts of connectivity) so I hope that THIS TIME I get to tell you how much I love your writing.

Found you last week and have read back to 2012 so far. Dolly sounds adorable, but I'm bit intimidated by Liza's too-knowing panache. The turkey gift had me in floods, Mary has me in stitches, sheety cars also come to us to die and my hands have scrubbed many things too.

No idea how far back the seam of creative loveliness goes, but I'll just keep reading whilst feeling like I'm mining the motherlode.

Much love,
Esme

Daisy said...

Poor Linda. How sad that she'd rather live in your fictional story than in her own real life. Very sweet of you to allow her to live in the world you created. It is kind of flattering, I think, that you made it seem so real to her that she wanted to claim it as her own.

Stacy Q said...

My memory is so bad I am constantly forgetting what really happened and what I made up. Also really vivid dreams get muddled up in there. So if someone tells me something happened, chances are I'll end up believing them.

The Chicken's Consigliere said...

Ha. I love this. I often have to explain to people that know me that they can't believe everything they read on my blog. My shoes do not really talk, Y'all! I hope Linda isn't still reading your blog:-)

Rose L said...

Just think, without your story she would have no excitement in her life. Now that's sad!

savannah said...

*sigh* don't get me started on what people who should know better believe *double sigh* let's just say, my first words after i got over my total astonishment, were why the hell didn't you pick up the damn phone and ask me... xoxoxoxox

(i like your experience better.)

Suldog said...

I know EXACTLY what you mean. I make up lots of stuff (so far, no one has imagined that they were actually part of it, but then I rarely use real names in fictional settings.) We [writers] all embellish our true tales, as well. That's the way we are built and it's why we are entertaining. If we only told the actual details of completely true stories, we would be inestimably boring (barring the four or five absolutely amazing stories that everyone really has from their lives.)

Or am I just a hideous liar and every other writer has had a much better life? No. Get back under the bubble wrap, totally irrational thought!

River said...

Nice of you to let Linda have her 15 minutes of fame. And who knows? Maybe it DID really happen. In an alternate universe.
I like living in my head too. My dreams live there and my bank account is never empty in my dreams, so anything goes. The sky's the limit. Unless I'm headed for an alternate universe, then there is no limit.

Kymbo Whitford said...

I'm coming to realise more and more that what most people call 'their life' is largely manufactured to suit themselves, as told by themselves to make themselves look good and feel better.(are sou seeing the pattern here yet or do I have to say it again?)
The world is full of loonies like us Pearl....

Jenny Woolf said...

Ah well, you just got a little glimpse inside Linda's head ! :)

esbboston said...

Mmm, Bubble Wrap, one of my favorite eXotic forms of musical instruments. But what category? Percussion? You strike it to make a sound, but there is trapped air released, so kinda like woodwind, a tiny tiny wind without the wood. The plastic is damaged, wounded, so maybe wound-wind (?) popPopPopPopPop