· invention or fabrication as opposed to fact
The above definition may be technically correct but, in my humble opinion, imaginary events in literary fiction are based on fact. Or, more precisely, on our own unique version of reality.
Have I sufficiently confused you all? My bad. Let me see if I can explain what I mean.
The way I see it, fiction is a product of the imagination, but our imaginations are rooted in experience. From the day we’re born, we humans begin to observe the world around us. We can’t help it. The instinct is built-in. We learn by observing. In the process, we judge and categorize people, places and situations based on our personal perceptions and once we’ve learned something, that knowledge becomes a part of us.
In other words, our experiences are embedded in our subconscious where we tap into them as needed. For example, when a fiction author sits down to write. The following is true for every aspect of a story, such as season, language, point in history, and characters, but let’s focus on just one thing. Location. Whether the author describes a spot they’ve visited often or a fantastical imaginary world, the sights and sounds, smells and feel, all the distinct features of the location come straight from their mind’s eye – you know, where all those past experiences live.
Each one of us has a store of learned details tucked away in our minds. Yes, even you. They serve as the blueprint of our reality. They document our likes and dislikes, warn us away from repeating past mistakes, and form our biases.
Here’s a quick experiment. Two women are walking down the street toward you. One meets your eye and offers a polite smile. She’s a few pounds overweight with brassy red hair pulled into a bun. The other is tall and thin, her blonde locks combed back in a slick twist. Chin held at a lofty angle, she looks straight ahead, as if you don’t exist, passing by without a glance.
One of these women is a waitress, the other a senator’s wife. Quick! Which is which?
Got it? Okay, good.
So, if you all did as you were told, each of you imagined the women in the roles that most closely align with your past experiences. Now, I could be wrong but, based on my intentional description of the women’s looks and behavior, I’m betting most of you could easily picture the blonde holding a dry martini and fake smiling at the suckers attending the latest swanky political fundraiser.
However, since I purposefully flipped the stereotypes on their heads, hoping to expose your bias, you’d be wrong in this case. The blonde is the waitress. Her name is Margie, by the way, and she’s not one of those big-hearted women everyone who stops in the diner loves. Beneath her perfect exterior, she’s a bitter shrew who’s had a crappy life and has a sharp tongue she uses with far too much frequency.
Which sums up my point. As authors, we sometimes go with the obvious – like the big-hearted waitress and snooty politician’s wife. Other times we gleefully rub our hands together, slipping into our Dr. Frankenstein frocks to piece together unique characters or worlds. However, the details used to flush out the various elements of our stories are always drawn from the deep pool of experience that is our own unique reality.
When Mac isn’t confusing the crap out of the visitors to The Roses of Prose blog, she dons her Dr. Frankenstein frock to create unique characters like Cooper Reed and Riley Pierce, the hero and heroine of THAT DATING THING, Mac’s lighthearted Wall Street romance.