Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Fiction rules!

A pal of mine is an investigative reporter at the local daily newspaper; guy won a Pulitzer and is the real deal - sent me a note about The Girl Who Cried Wolf. He liked it a lot, particularly the portrayal of the radical Green movement in the Pacific NW, but his point was that he and a colleague had talked about writing a non-fiction account of the Greens, but game it up because they couldn't find any Greens who were that interesting as people. He thought I had an advantage as a fiction writer because I could create characters that were more interesting than the real people. He was right, of course, but I would make the point that the best characters are grounded in reality. Good novelists need to have the ears and eyes of good reporters, otherwise we're just making stuff up. When I know I've done my job as a novelist is when the characters come to life and start coming up with their own dialogue, which is almost always better than the lines I come up for them. The better the work, the more of my own work I get to toss away. The character of Eli in the book, a young surf bum with blonde dreads and a dangerous, sweet innocence, is based on a composite of all the Milk-is-Murder guys I talked to on the beach when I lived in Southern California, same mix of ignorance and insight and not a clue how to separate the two. I love Eli and his fantasies of living in Mexico, surfing all day and living off the land. I love the way he's renamed the constellations to be more meaningful to himself, changing Cancer the Crab to Mecha-Godzilla and laughing the whole time. I love him because he's got Hepatitis 3 and at some deep level he knows the clock is ticking. And if you want to find a piece of Eli, he's right there in real life in this news clip of a free wheeling young hitchhiker who got involved, saved a woman he didn't know who was being attacked. Stopped the attacker cold with a hatchet he happened to be carrying. Yeah, I wondered about that too... guy carries a hatchet and goofy grin. Hey, why not? So check out this link, which is very NSFW, by the way, and listen to his speed rap, the pure poetry. No writer can write this good, but a good writer can absorb it, recast it, use it to create some new character who will take things to a whole other level. Which is why... fiction rules.