Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Melding Reality with Fiction

I cringe to think a young, beginning writer would opt to live a banal life, focusing only on writing in hopes of creating rich stories.  That’s oxymoronic in theory or execution. There are many writers, including me, that have vast and heterogeneous experiences. Fanciful imaginings are surely necessary to creating literary entertainment and art, but one of the hallmarks of good fiction is that it’s imbued with a fair grasp of reality without resulting in something as dry as a Bond martini.
It is requisite writers read—a lot—and research, interview and dig thoroughly to bring accuracy to their stories, and that’s often the only way to learn the factual details filling our fictional worlds.  It’s a balancing act.  We strive to keep our footing and suspend disbelief as foul forces attempt to knock us from our high wire.  Invaluable it is to live and experience life broadly.  We gather kernels from all corners of life to bring life to our writing, lest we succumb to being armchair quarterbacks banging out plastic fiction.

Naturally, it's impossible for one to live all there is to the human experience, but many of us have gone out there and chosen to risk it—go for it—and do things many only read or dream about.  I'm reminded of George Plimpton. Even though non-fiction, what was great about his works like Paper Lion is that he was the everyman writing from his participatory perspective rather than that of a reporter who merely researched the contests and interviewed the players.

Me? I've struggled through hell, muck and mire armed with weapons, traversed the skies in powerful machines and taken responsibility daily for every life on board. I’ve leapt from those craft when they were flying fine, protected only by a silk canopy. My last jump at age 18 nearly killed me, and I was saved by a fluke with only seconds to spare, 900 feet from splatter. I've paid with the pain of spinal damage ever since. In dubious service to America, I was privy to some dirty little secrets and lies of this nation and others as the deadly silly games played out on the global field.

I've fought full-contact karate and sometimes had to be dragged from the dojo floor unconscious, and I celebrated when, more often than not, I dished it out to opponents. I've been in street and bar brawls with knuckles and knives.  I’ve cradled and cared for all kinds of creatures; I said ouch when they bit me and cried when they died. I’ve run, swum, climbed, biked, kayaked and rafted. I've involved myself in the lives of all kinds of characters from criminals to kings, bikers to barons, and romanced many kinds of women, fluttering and scarring my heart. I’ve crept through seedy L.A. streets at three in the morning with a pistol pushed into the waistband of my jeans—just in case. I've lived the workaday world, 9 to 5, in myriad businesses and industries, working in plush offices, high-security military installations and on garbage trucks teaming with maggots, gagging from the blood of dead animals running into my eyes and mouth.

I've raised kids (a most frightening adventure I fear I bumbled extremely), and tickled my grandkids, all of us giggling to tears. I’ve been a rock 'n' roll roadie and a psychiatric office's manager and multiple dozens of things in between. I've traveled throughout this country and others, and jumped right in when new, uncomfortable, dangerous and frightening...or even lame...adventures presented themselves, knowing full well that it could be the last thing I would do. I've chosen to experience chemically altered states of mind and soul—just for fun or just to know—fully aware of the possible risks to life, limb, sanity and freedom. I know the terrors of jails and mental wards, the peace and joy of great libraries and standing atop mountains the most agile animals avoid.

I've sacrificed security and comfort often just to know the emotions and senses felt when choosing less safe and sane paths, often rebelling at what society at large, friends and loved ones thought I should do. In between the more harrowing moments, there's been time a plenty to read, research, watch movies, wallow in music and live like a lounge lizard and laugh—and write, write, write.

There's a price to pay for everything and we have to choose what we can afford. I regret the nos I’ve proffered, in momentary lapses into sense and sanity, more than the times I’ve said yes to the unhinged unknown. Better that I die damaged and delirious before I’m sixty than safe at seventy-seven. The writing fuel garnered, as well as the simple joy of living, is well worth the risks, and when I lay me down for the last time, I’ll fall away from here, fulfilled.


Paige said...

I know I'm biased, but I still say it is a beautiful bit of writing.

K.R.J. said...

Thank you, Paige. Your bias is greatly appreciated and I'll get that check in the mail to you tomorrow.