Writer’s Craft #73 – Reality and Fiction
Your host, Lynda Williams, is the author of the Okal Rel Saga (Edge Science Fiction and Fantasy Publishing) and editor of the Okal Rel Legacies series (Absolute Xpress). She also works as Learning Technology Analyst for Simon Fraser University and teaches a introductory web development course at BCIT. For a list of Okal Rel titles see: Lynda Williams on Amazon.com.
“David, you’re a writer. Make it up.” That’s the advice writer David Benioff gets from his grandfather in the intro to City of Thieves. David wants to tell the real life story of his grandfather surving the seige of Leningrad in World War II and doesn’t want to mess up someone else’s story. Yet his grandfather is wiser.
How much do we make up in the translation as we map our own experience into our work? I’ve get more perspective on this question as I get older. I am also astronished by how literal readers assume the process is. There is lots of life experience in my stories of bioengineered super-pilots, a transparent society governed by AIs and a space age legal system in which champions duel. But it isn’t translated in a linear fashion. There was no sexual abuse in my childhood, for example. It always alarms me when people conjecture on this. I became fascinated by the difficulty of overcoming the psychological fall out of sexual abuse while working with a crisis centre during impressionable years. The very innocence of my upbringing provided the contrast that made its opposite so necessary to think my way through as a teenager, and my way of doing this was to torture a character: in this case the Courtesan Prince of Book 1, Amel Dem’Vrel. On the other hand the self-absorption of depression in a loved one that peeks out from other characters is something I did, personally, experience. And the power struggles of Fountain Court owe something to family politics and the post-secondary institutions where I’ve worked.
How do you mix up your fiction with your realities, and what worries do you have about how it might be interpreted?