Why Fiction is Better than FactPosted: February 8, 2016
Have you ever looked back and thought about how doing one small thing different at some point in your life might have made things turn out very different? Is there one decision that you made that might have changed everything, making you a very different person than you are today? There’s probably many choices and events that fit this bill, because that’s how life is. What we do and the choices we make, shape the hills and valleys of our life stories.
I’ve gone over the years prior to my son’s death thousands of times in my mind, searching for one thing I could have done differently, which might have resulted in his being alive today. Although there are many things that might have changed the events that occurred, in the end it comes down to facts, and the facts are, things happened the way they happened and I made the choices that I made because we can’t see the future and hindsight doesn’t change anything.
That’s one way in which writing is so much better than real life. In our stories, we are the creators who determine the events that occur and we can go back and change things, and we often do. In fact, one little change can change the entire story, sometimes in ways that are unexpected. Never has this become as clear to me as it has recently, as I’ve gone through the most recent revision of my western novel, Delilah.
Delilah began as an excerpt assigned in my first M.F.A. class in genres, with the idea of taking us out of our comfort zones by having us write outside the genres we were used to writing in. By the end of the second semester that year, I had a rough draft of a western novel. Although my cohorts who critiqued it would probably recognize some elements of the story it has turned into, it is also very different in many ways from that first original story.
Delilah is a young woman who did two years in prison in the early 1880’s for killing her step-father when he raped and killed her mother and younger sister. On her way back to San Luis, she is raped and hanged, but she doesn’t die and instead, sets out on a quest for revenge that takes her to the Colorado mining town of Leadville.
Except somewhere during the first revision, it occurred to me that there had to be more at stake, so she gained a 16 year old traveling companion named Sarah, who gets kidnapped when they hang Delilah, which changed a lot of things further along in the story.
During the second revision, I was reading aloud the scene where Delilah confronts her love interest, Clyde Harper, after he mentioned something to the sheriff that sent him sniffing around in her tracks, when it occurred to me that when she marched from the office of the Little Pittsburg after telling Clyde off, something needed to happen. Delilah needed to run smack dab into one of the men she’d been seeking. So I wrote a new scene in which that’s exactly what happens, and the story just kind of took off from there. I wrote new scenes for the new story line, and rewrote some of the old scenes that I particularly like to fit the new story, and I swear at times even I didn’t know where my story was going.
The final result is a much better story than the original, I think. But it is also very different from that story. My point is that all of this occurred from changing just a couple small details, which sent the story off in different directions. It’s really quite amazing when you think about it.
It is just one reason why I maintain that fiction is better than fact. Fact, you can’t go back and revise. I can think of all kinds of things I could have done different that might have resulted in my son being alive now, but I can’t go back and change any of them to make the story of my life or his come out differently.
If you’re interested in knowing more about Delilah, you can like my Facebook page, Delilah – Kaye Lynne Booth for updates.