Stranger than fiction

September 27, 2013 LifeWriting  No comments

It’s no wonder that truth is stranger than fiction. Fiction has to make sense.
Mark Twain

I spend the majority of my day in other worlds. Writing my book, reading other books, reading scripts for my Intro to scriptwriting class, watching movies for class/fun, listening to music, as well as watching my daily episode of Gilmore Girls and whatever else is on that night. It wouldn’t be far-fetched to say that I spend a minimum of 10 hours a day in other worlds.

I have always been more at home in stories than in my own life; whether it be books, movies, TV shows, songs, whatever. It may have started out as a way to escape, but it has turned into something bigger than that. I get cranky and off-kilter if I don’t have a book to read or a good movie/show to watch. And when I do have them, it is pure bliss. When they end, it’s a deep, spiraling depression until I get my next fix.

I think I am more comfortable with fiction than real life because I can understand stories – they have a theme, their content is coherent and concise. Within each world there is a setting, a mood – how that world and its characters feel. Of course, there are layers to each story and subplots, but it never completely deviates from the overarching worldview of its characters and their lives.

For example, in the show Chicago Fire by creator Dick Wolf, you see these firefighters and paramedics in hectic, life-or-death situations basically every episode. You get the feel that these people are good, strong, heroic individuals. Through their discussions, you get the sense that money is tight and many supplement their income with secondary jobs. You feel that they are these real, everyday, middle-class people. But you also see them in their relationships; you see them with their significant others, family, friends. You see their struggles with lies, messy relationships, the horrors they see on job, etc. But my point is, you never see a fire-breathing dragon come storming into the firehouse or see them wielding lifesabers. Because those things don’t fit in that world. But in real life, a dragon, metaphorical or literal (I’m not entirely convinced they’re only mythological creatures), can come hurtling in at any given moment throwing your entire understanding of the world off balance.
In movies we get to see a clear cut beginning, middle, and end. But in real life (IRL), we are almost always in the middle, trudging along. There are periods in our lives where we have a semi-clearcut beginning, middle, and end – like our teenage years, or college years, or maybe different relationships or jobs or stages in life. But for the most part, we’re still in the “figuring it out” stage.

I’ve always thought there was just something wrong with me. Why couldn’t I make myself fit in the real world? How come I couldn’t get a grip on it or feel comfortable in it like I did in my books? How come my books/stories seem more real to me than my own life does sometimes?

I’m not entirely sure, but I think one of the main reasons is because: Fiction has to make sense. Life doesn’t. It just doesn’t. We try really hard to make it coherent, to make all the different pieces fit, but most of the time they just don’t. In any given day we can be so many different people, in so many different stories. We can be a student, a struggling twenty-something, a mom, a spouse, a friend, a drunk, an ambitious go-getter, a somebody or a nobody. In any given day, our lives can feel dramatic like it does in Chicago Fire; romantic and sensual like a Matt Nathanson song; magical and mystical like it does in Middle Earth or Hogwarts; or mysterious, adventurous, and action-packed like it does in a Jason Bourne movie.

People and relationships are inherently complex, and I think with every person, movie, book, song, place, belief system we come across and pay attention to we incorporate into ourselves; along with where we’ve come from, where we’re at, and where we want to be. So in other words, it’s a wonderful thing that we aren’t stuck in one genre our entire lives. How incredibly boring would that be? We experience all these different genre’s (read: feelings) in our life because we need all those genres in our life. Just listen to this quote from English comic writer, novelist, screenwriter, and creator Alan Moore, “My experience of life is that it is not divided into genres; it’s a horrifying, romantic, tragic, comical, science-fiction cowboy detective novel. You know, with a bit of pornography if you’re lucky.”

There is something about fiction that is not attainable in reality – there’s a magic to it. In fiction, something important and dramatic is always happening because the action has to be propelling the story along. But in reality, there’s a whole lot of nothing going on in between the fun/important/dramatic/meaningful moments. These moments for me, which come in the middle of the day after I’m done writing, are depressing and difficult to get through. It’s hard for me to remember that sometimes it’s okay to just be and to not have it mean a damn thing other than that I’m alive. Not every moment has to be meaningful and important. If that were the case, we would all be extremely exhausted all the time.

But I think it is important to remember that we do have those moments in our lives. Those dramatic, magical, intimate, adventurous, funny moments. They’re just not happening every second of every day. And those in-between moments, they’re just as important as the big ones. You need both to build a life.

I fear that by always living in made-up (however real they are to me personally) worlds, I am not fully participating in life or “living.” Don’t get me wrong, I have friends and family. I get out and socialize. I go to Pilates class and travel. I go out to the bar. But in my day to day reality, I spend the majority of my time writing or reading, exploring and living in these other worlds. So does that mean I’m not really living?
Honestly, who knows? I’d like to think I still have a life outside of made-up worlds, but when you spend the majority of your day inside your head like I do, your perception of reality is easily warped. I make it a point to engage with others and put myself out there in the world, but my reality is creating fiction. And as a creator, it is easy to look too close and lose sight of the big picture, to see that there is a world outside of your work.

So maybe, the reason I’ve always been so  preoccupied with fiction is because that’s the world I want to live in, the world I want to create. Just like, business is a businessman’s (or businesswoman’s) reality or raising children is a stay at home mom’s reality, fiction is my reality. And while the rest of my life might not be coherent or make sense, at least that does.


UPDATE: I recently read this article on Tiny Buddha called What Makes Life Worth Living: Create Tiny Epic Moments by Becky Swenson. Definitely recommend it, if like myself, you have a hard time with the in-between moments.


Until next time, Farewell & may your life never cease to be filled with wonder and curiosity.

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