Writer’s Craft #30 – Too Strange for Fiction
John Preet appeared on the Writer’s Craft earlier this year on the topic of writing a fight. He lives and writes in Calgary, AB. John is a pilot, a technical writer, a lover of big dangerous animals, and a teacher of martial arts. (Lynda)
One of the odder issues I have faced is translating to fiction some of the experiences in my life that prompt my pieces. We are constantly urged to “write what we know”. What do you do when what you’ve written is so far outside most people’s experience that peer criticism revolves around “this is too unlikely; nobody would believe it”.
Some of my stories incorporate my own life, such as the following excerpt from a bit of military fiction:
The whisper finally penetrated his sweaty sleep and he jolted awake, certain he was back in the Ecuador jungle, with Carey’s weakening voice. The dream faded completely as he focused on the white-grey ceiling and felt the chill that no heater on the planet could beat back. Falling back, he grimaced at the impact of the soaked pillow and the musk of his drenched clothes.
“A dream, only a dream”, he muttered and closed his eyes. “Alone.”
The whisper came again, slithering along the walls and into the infirmary. “Can’t you help me”
He sat up again, listening hard as he swiped his forehead.
“Please . . .” A scratchy whisper coming from everywhere.
“Where are you?”
“Alone . . .”
He swung to his feet and gripped the edge of the bed as his head swam, fresh sweat stinging his eyes despite the chill.
“Help. Please . . .”
Down the hall, maybe. Moving carefully, half leaning against the wall, he followed. The weak cry seemed to retreat as he moved along, wet prints freezing behind him.
“Yes, please. Here, down here.” Carey. Still scanning his fire arc, even as his blood flowed and the rescue helo didn’t come.
“Carey? Hang on, buddy, chopper’s coming. Just hang on.”
“Please . . .”
Breath rasping out in a spray, he leaned on the door, fighting the spinning in his head.
“Please . . .”
He opened the door and the blizzard chuckled, freezing his clothes to his skin, caressing him with a thousand crystal fingers, urging him on in whispering waves of razor snow.
“Please, please. Out here . . .”
He stumbled on, feet already numb, his eyes freezing shut.
“I’m coming, buddy, hang on.”
That was something that actually happened. Only the ending got changed.
Too strange for fiction?