Wednesday, March 9, 2016

How do we recreate the real world in fiction?

Recreating ancient history can be fraught with interpretations. But recent history must surely be just as hard. They tell us we should "write what we know" but I'm always afraid what I know might be skewed by what I thought I knew. If I painted the world I grew up in, I know my brothers would disagree. My older brother has already complained about things I said as a young adult that I can't even imagine wanting to say. There again, in fiction, the world is seen through a character's eyes. So perhaps I can write what I thought I once knew through a stranger's eyes and make it real, even if it's not what was really there.

Mesu Andrews recreated the ancient world of Israel in Egypt beautifully in Miriam. Her ancient history includes interpretation of Biblical events, scientific theory, historical record and more. It convinces me. Fill a suitably complex four-star cup with coffee and enjoy.

War Brides by Helen Bryan is set (mostly) in England before and during the Second World War. I don't know enough history to say if the details are true, but they're certainly convincing and agree with the sense of what family members told me. South coast villagers watch planes fly overhead, hope no bombs will drop, scrounge for black-market treats, profiteer, hide, and care for their children. The war brides themselves come from far and wide, and the story covers much more than England's shores. In the end it's a tale of endings that are never quite resolved, that turn into new beginnings at every turn. I liked it, for all its unexpected typos. Enjoy with some three-star well-balanced coffee as it balances its wealth of characters.

Calvin Davis tackles more recent history with the Phantom Lady of Paris. Americans drink coffee in Parisian bars while the world around them falls prey to terror and decay. The cancers of poverty, disenfranchised youth and rejection grew as surely then as they do now, and the novel, sumptuously written, evocatively real, and honestly portraying a wealth of characters, is hauntingly, mysteriously wonderful. Enjoy with some more four-star complex wonderful coffee.

Still in the 60s, On Chesil Beach by Ian McEwan takes the reader into the minds of a man and woman on their wedding night. It's a compelling and evocative depiction of human emotion and physical need, and a haunting tale of how one moment's chance can change the years of a life. How and why do we meet our loves, and what would happen if we didn't? Short, sad, explicitly sensual, and hauntingly beautiful--Chesil Beach is surely the perfect metaphor for this tale. Enjoy with some complex four-star compelling coffee.

Snake Holes by Becky Villareal is a short story for middle grade or younger, depicting the left-out school-child and how she, maybe, saves her friends. There's a nicely real depiction of childhood's taunts and a simple life, where common sense isn't always right, but it still prevails. Enjoy this one with some smooth full-flavored three-star coffee.

These last two books recreate the present day through the eyes of vastly different characters. The Shades of Fear Anthology collects a wealth of fears from the big C to the monster under the bed. Some real, some hauntingly surreal, and some just dark and twisted, they make for an anthology that twists and turns with each tale. Enjoy with some dark five-star coffee and set aside plenty of time; it's a well-stocked anthology with lots of tales to tell.

Anthology of Murderous Connections by Desiree L Scott is built with short stories all from the same author. Murderous family connections drive the tales. More dark five-star coffee might be required.

But will readers believe these worlds are real? Does telling your own story (as in one of the short tales in Shades of Fear) make the story more real than telling, or imagining someone else's. If I offer my story will it seem boring, unreal, or maybe just badly remembered (as my brother will insist). And if I give you details of that banister I hid behind, will you believe me, think I imagined it, or tell me it's just something somebody told me about in later years?

Better stick to fiction, I think. In fiction events have reason, and truth is in the hands of the author.

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