This reality intrudes. Sorry. I have prepared a workshop on how to develop dramatic scene that I will teach at the Bellevue public library on Monday evening, details below:
Dec 9th – Bellevue Library – 7:00-8:00 pm – 1111 110th Avenue NE, Bellevue, 98004 / 425-450-1765.
I would love to see you there if you can make it.
Details create reality. It might also be said that reality is authenticated by details. Consider the passage below from Better You Go Home (Chapter 21, page 143):
grains to honking geese. A diesel tractor putt-putts off toward the fields;
a gate clangs shut. Cows low plaintively to register their dissatisfaction at
having been made to wait so long. On our side of the creek, the Lenoch farm
is as quiet as a ghost town. No smoke curls up from the chimney.
It’s a chilly fall afternoon with leaden skies. My father asked for time to
collect himself before we enter the farmhouse where he grew up, the home he
hasn’t seen in more than half a century. Walking through the grove of birch
by the creek, listening to the rustle of the dry yellow leaves, he recalls fond
memories. Sleeping in the loft buried under mounds of downy comforters.
The games they played with the chamber pot. In winter the contents would
freeze. He, being oldest, owned the chore to thaw it by the stove and empty it
Milada went ahead to greet her father. They’re waiting.
A limestone corridor connects the house to the stalls. The stone over the
centuries has absorbed an aroma of animal funk and musty straw, an odor
that remains sharp in the nose, though there have been no animals other than
Bedřich’s angora rabbits on this farm for nearly four years. My father looks
around with a boyish grin. The funk from the stalls must be raising ghosts of
When I wrote this passage, I had in mind an actual farm in Pisecna. Doing to my writer’s duty, I altered details and their descriptors to manipulate mood and atmosphere. Why? It’s an important homecoming moment for one of my characters and I wanted to capture the forlorn, isolated, even deserted feeling that he would experience, along with the first tremor of nostalgia for a life lost.
Recently I received an email from a Lenoch relative who is very real (not a character) and who likely is related to the side of the family that ended up in Iowa and came from the farm next door. An illegitimate marriage in Iowa caused my relatives to stop talking to his relatives and vice-versa. Upon hearing from him I was reminded that the reality I used details to create in the book, the only reality I have lived with for some time and the reality I have come to believe in, is not, actually, the reality I will share with this relative I have never met but hope one day to meet.
Is one reality to be preferred over the other? He will want the facts. Rightfully so. With the factual details, he can construct the reality that interests him. It’s what we do. I prefer my reality. I never felt I understood these people until I constructed this reality.
This is why stories matter, one reason why. They deliver us from the clutch of cold fact to the possibility of insight, even empathy.