Real Life and Fiction

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Out and about this morning, I spotted so many glorious trees turning vibrant colors that I literally gasped. Yeah, it’s cliché — but they honestly took my breath away.  They were almost as perfect as my porcelain-delicate kids’ faces when they were babies — okay, not quite, but you get where I’m coming from. So I whipped out my camera and got the shot specifically for this post. And because I tend overanalyze everything to the point that I turn melancholy, a wave of sadness washed over me. In two weeks time the tree above (taken outside the Old Bridge Public Library) will be bare-boned and ugly.

Note to readers: after two weeks my kids weren’t bare-boned and ugly. They grew up to be ridiculously handsome, but that awe-inspiring infant beauty is presently nowhere to be found.

So, back to the library, I turned around and noticed a few trees off in the distance, about a week or so past their prime beauty. I took a shot of those, too.

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Why can’t perfection freeze in time? Why can’t it always be beautiful? Like some kind of cosmic rule, life isn’t always pretty. Which got me to thinking about the less attractive side of life when it comes to writing. I came to the conclusion that reality doesn’t necessarily apply to fiction.

After considering all the books I have read, I realized an awful lot of reality is missing even from my very favorite authors. Gone with the Wind comes to mind immediately. Loved it. Read it to death. I re-read it every couple of years.  Rich people. The Civil War. Poor people. Death. Destruction. Reconstruction. And not once within its entire 733 pages does anyone go to the bathroom!

I’ve been reading Stephen King since Carrie, and people do periodically go to the bathroom in his novels. One instance that caught my attention due to the understatement of the “action” was in Salem’s Lot. The doctor (Jimmy Cody) is with Ben Mears when they encounter the undead. Jimmy is so frightened, he wets himself, but it only comes to a couple of drops — a wink and a nod to peeing his pants. A couple of drops? Hey, in my life that’s a deep sneeze or a reaction to the funniest joke I’ve ever heard. A real-life reaction that never seems to make its way into books is to let loose a stream so long and strong that six vampires walking by would slip, fall, and probably drown in the stream of urine.

Why don’t characters ever take out the garbage? When do they trim their toenails? Doesn’t anyone ever wipe down the tiles after they take a shower to prevent mold and mildew? Where is the mundane, less attractive side of life? Even in my own work, how come Colleen Caruso can drink four gin and diet tonics after dinner and not get up a dozen times during the night to use the toilet?

These aren’t exactly burning literary questions. We who write know that in most instances, it’s understood that people do occasionally take out the trash, use the toilet, and trim their toenails. These daily routines have no place in a nicely flowing story and they certainly serve no purpose — unless the toenail clippings contain DNA and can be used to solve a crime. Come to think of it, if a writer puts in every pit stop, every meal, all the oil changes, washed dishes, garbage hauls, and gas runs, the book would be 2,000 pages long and a totally boring read.

So there! I answered my own question! But seriously, wouldn’t you love to see a just a little more of real life reflected in the novels you read?

No?

Okay, I’ll try not to do that!

Have a wonderful weekend everybody. Get out and enjoy the fall foliage.

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