1/11 – Sharing Sample Scenarios & Thinking about Truth

Daily warm up: Write about a time you were worried that something you said came out wrong and offended someone.

Today, we’re going to share our sample scenarios–the goal here isn’t critique, but just to notice: how did other people write this story?

Then we’re going to talk about what it FELT like to write, constrained by the actual events someone else gave us

  • Was that easy or hard? Why?
  • What details did you include? Which ones did you leave out? Why?
  • Where did you “begin” the story? Why?

Because (hopefully we’ll get to this part…) today’s focus is on truth. One of the problems in writing creative non-fiction is that we start to think we are slaves to facts. But the truth is that we can choose facts carefully to weave together a story.

Back when I was writing the first draft of my first novel, I knew there were about 2,000 people at the Homecoming Bonfire. My protagonist interacted with 3 different groups of people, and each group was made up of 7-8 people. That meant there were THREE different scenes of my main character talking to people and 21-24 different people I had to manage on the page.

What a nightmare to write–and to read. It makes no sense to introduce all these individuals if there isn’t any more connection to them in the rest of the story. I had to take lots of them out entirely. I had to eliminate two of the three scenes–because they weren’t necessary. But that still left me with 8 people she interacted with.

Now what? In a novel, I can just say “Jimmy and Jason are fulfilling the same role, so I’m going to combing them into one character.”

In creative non-fiction, though, these people are real, separate individuals. What can I do?

SOLUTION: I can IGNORE one of them. I know he was there in the interaction, but I can just leave that detail OUT.

For our experiment: I want you to choose a messy, complicated scene from your life. One that involves a LOT of people or a lot of details. Then I want you to write it into a great little story–by IGNORING or LEAVING OUT lots of those details and people. Choose only the most essential characters, ideas, events and focus in on those.

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