Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Stranger than Fiction

Have you ever experienced something in your life that is so bizarre the people you share it with have a hard time believing it actually happened? This is what I consider to be "stranger than fiction." Why? Because fiction has to make sense.

We're odd, aren't we?

Imagine you're reading a charming, coming-of-age novel about a young girl who is struggling to find herself after her parents' divorce and father's death. When the main character is 15, she and her friends--one of whom is old enough to drive and has a car--decide they're going to have a wild night of fun. They go to a rock concert, then tell all their parents they are staying at one girl's house. But that girl's parents are out of town, and the girls have no intention of going back to her house that night. They are going to stay out all night and have fun, meet people, etc.

They go to a pool hall/bar and play a few games, attracting the attention of several young and older men. One of the younger ones seems so interested, he literally writes his name and number on the MC's arm as her friends are dragging her out. Later, they meet up with these two guys that one of the girls kind of knows, and end up crashing at a stranger's apartment until the wee hours of the morning, when they discover their plan has been found out--and their parents are all worried and waiting for them to come home.

The MC rides back with her friends to the girl's house where they were supposed to be, and during the ride they come up with the story they're going to tell their parents. If it's a simple enough story, and they all tell the same one, they reason the truth won't be found out. I mean, whose parents WOULDN'T kill them for staying the night with some guys, even if nothing really happened?

The MC gets a ride with one of her friends and her parents, who are fuming. All the way to her house, the MC has to sit and listen to the lecture from the parents to both girls about how worried her mom was and how irresponsible and stupid their behavior had been. And how much trouble she was in when she got home.

When she does get home and they drive away, her mom gives her a hug, makes her a sandwich, and lets her take a nap before they go to church that afternoon.

Now imagine the conversation those girls have at the lunch table at school the following Monday. One has been grounded for a month. Another got grounded for two weeks. The driver had her car taken away for two weeks, and was grounded for another two weeks. And our MC? She tells her friends her mom made her a sandwich and let her take a nap.

Stranger than fiction? Would you throw the book across the room and swear that couldn't possibly happen? No parent, acting as both mother and father to their child, would just let them get away with such behavior! That's ridiculous, and SO unrealistic.

Except it really happened. And I'll probably never use it in a book because readers expect more from a novel than we can get away with in real life. :)

What's your "stranger than fiction" story?


Tamara Hart Heiner said...

I think about this all the time. Lots of time I use story elements from real life, b/c really strange things happen in real life! and it seems like a lot of my 'unrealistic' criticisms (not all, mind you) stem from these actual occurrences. Granted,they didn't all happen to the same person!

Angie said...

Sometimes life is very strange, indeed. Funny how we want our fiction to make more sense.

Anonymous said...

I don't know - I think that could lead into a really good story about that girl. can you imagine how mean the other girls could get? What about what this girl thought of her mother, or about her mother - or did she even wonder why her mother didn't get more angry? Would she feel gyped that she didn't get into the same trouble as the other girls?

What would she find out about her mother that she didn't already know? Was her mother home, or out doing something exciting of her own? Why a sandwich, what was in it? What did mom do while her daughter was taking a nap? Is mom suddenly acting suspicious?

It doesn't have to make sense right away, as long as the story works that strangeness into something as it goes... hmmmm, could be good....

J.L. Campbell said...

It would feel like kind of a 'huh?' moment, except if the mother decides to be mean and comes up with some sort of punishment that takes the character by surprise. Even if the readers don't feel cheated by sandwich and church, her friends might.

C. Michelle Jefferies said...

I rolled my hubbys truck three times down a very steep hill. Landed wheels down, engine still running, only two of the six windows busted out. Found the cell phone in the mess, we had cell phone service for about 30 seconds, enough time to call 911 and tell them what had happened and where we had been. Roof of cab colapsed within 2 inches above my kids car seats and I have the pic to prove that one. Me and the 2 little ones WALKED AWAY from it with a few bruises and cuts from the glass. We should have been dead.

Yes life is stranger than fiction.