The following post was written just over a year ago.
At the time I didn’t have a clear enough vision for my book baby. After many drafts and redrafts, I finally got that ‘vision’ … how would Charlie have wanted me to tell this story? Does that matter? Yes, I think it does! That flashing lightbulb went off for me just prior to National Novel Writing Month this year. During the first half of November, I wrote a fresh 11,000 words of “Charlie Dreams”. Due to some family and health complications, I had to resign from ‘NaNoWriMo’ half-way through. However, I have those precious words safely tucked away on my flash drive. Twenty-seventeen is going to be a fabulous year. I cannot wait!
September 3rd, 2015 A few weeks ago when I was kindly invited to write this blog post for Christian Writers Downunder, I knew exactly what I wanted to write about. I wanted to communicate something, which is usually why I write. There doesn’t seem to be a lot of point in keeping one’s thoughts too private; no one would ever really know me, be able to advise me or just have a quiet read and a chuckle to themselves and say “That’s Just Jo’Anne”.
In an earlier post, I talked about why I found it necessary to blog when I could just jot down my thoughts into a journal and be done with it. Today I wish to deviate a little from my intended topic. I wanted to cover the ‘pros and cons of Life Writing’ but that may or may not eventuate down the track. You see, after doing lots of research (as I haven’t yet done a course on Life Writing); I began to realise what an extensive topic it was.
I then realised that some very important questions would need to be answered.
- Will the contents of this story hurt any family or friends of my main character, and sub-characters who are still living and compos mentis?
- What sort of an impact would my story have upon people whether or not they know me or my family?
- Is my story relevant to the focus of my blog/genre?
- Does it matter?
- Can my story hurt my own reputation in any way?
- Would I ever regret writing this book?
These are just a few of many questions which should be considered when writing about the life or lives of others; and indeed even if I was merely writing an autobiography, shouldn’t I consider how my thoughts and feelings would affect others. True, partially true or complete fabrications, we as writers must take responsibility for the hearts and minds of our readers as well as our own.
So today instead of the ‘pros and cons’, let’s just look into ‘Why’? I have already been down the path of ‘What If’? There were so many questions building up in my mind that I had to give it a rest. You see I have never done life writing before! I cannot believe I just completely admitted that to you all; but it is the plain, honest truth. Life writing can be somewhat scary and confronting at the best of times, but in my case, my very first piece of what is supposed to be biographical is going to look and read like a novel of fiction.
I struggled with what name or label to give the genre for this book. Would it be a memoir? Perhaps not. How about a fictional memoir? Maybe narrative non-fiction? No that can’t be it, even ‘narrative’ non-fiction must have more factual content than not. Perhaps this life story doesn’t fit within the mould of any known genre. The real problem is that my main character, although very much a real person, didn’t live what we would consider a real life …. at least not a realistic life by most worldly standards.
Here follows a short synopsis of my work.
Charlie was an odd wee fellow, always with his head in the clouds. He would be day-dreaming or telling tall tales, which often lead him into all sorts of trouble. Charlie had a vivid imagination and because we spent so much time together, he nurtured my imagination with ease. You see Charlie was not only my brother, he was my best friend, my soul-mate.
After a short, often sad but sometimes happy life, Charlie passed away at the tender age of thirty-nine. I was just thirty-six year’s old, way too young to lose my best friend. Charlie’s parents who are still living at the time of writing this played a huge role in shaping both our lives and the passages which will appear in my book. Our grandfather, also named Charles plays an important role in piecing together our story.
Charlie suffered from Bipolar disorder, but sadly we weren’t aware of this until after his tragic death. He played his cards very close to his chest so that the people closest to him couldn’t see in. I am also Bipolar, however, my family is more than aware of the fact. I have fabulous support from family and dear friends, and it is these wonderful people who encourage and inspire me to tell our story. My only regret is that we were not able to see through Charlie’s dreams and look more closely at the true heart and soul of the matter.
So why do I feel compelled to write this book? My answer – why not?
Charlie really did have an interesting if sad life. There were many moments of happiness, whether they were real or imagined doesn’t matter too much. His life was a good life. He was a kind soul with an extremely gentle heart. Everything Charlie told you was exactly as he believed it to be himself.
While life writing of any kind can be extremely challenging, I have made my mind up to continue with this challenge, with its risks and plethora of things that could go wrong. I want to honour someone with compassion, praise, respect, unfathomable love, honesty (as far as possible) and great big dollops of humour along the way.
This person is my best buddy, Charlie.
What do you think? Should fiction be a part of a life story? Does it really have any place there? What if the person we are writing about was unable to decipher fact from fiction, believed everything he said; but beyond all of that was satisfied that he was living the life he had always wanted (dreamt about).
I would love to hear your opinions and kind advice. Please feel free to leave a comment below.
Originally published in Christian Writers Downunder Blog