When a writer claims a work of fiction to be nonfiction, it is quite the scandal. The work is a hoax, the author a fraud. The career of the writer is in shambles.
But what happens when a writer claims a work of nonfiction to be fiction? The work becomes a bestselling novel, the author hailed a genius. The career of the writer reaches celebrity status.
According to an article in online magazine, Styleblazer, the plots of several well-known horror flicks originated from true to life events. Psycho, Audrey Rose, The Exorcist, and Jaws all contain storylines based on actual occurrences.
Now, far as I know, there has been no negative press concerning the scandalous act of passing truth off as fiction. But to err on the side of caution, I’ve decided to come clean regarding my irresponsible use of truth in my Tales of the Scrimshaw Doll story, Skinbound. I can only hope you won’t hold this imprudent practice against me.
The old chair rocked in the speeding truck’s bed, as if her dead great-grandmother were still nestled within its arms. Darcy Vaughan turned in her mother’s bucket seat and watched the black pickup vanish into a cloud of red dust.
Above is the very first passage of my book, Skinbound. This is also the first of many times in the story that I shamelessly disguise a true to life event as fiction.
When I was in my early twenties, my great-grandmother died. I was very close to her, just as Skinbound’s Darcy was with her great-grandmother Gigi. While driving to meet my family at her estate sale, my heart sank as trucks hauling my dear departed great-grandmother’s belongings passed me on the roadway.
Here is another example of my treacherous habit of borrowing truth for fictional purposes.
“Going once…going twice…” The auctioneer warned. Darcy’s heart juddered against her ribs.
She dove for the cardboard box as if it were home plate. Blood oozed from her skinned elbows as she thrust her hands into her great-grandmother’s belongings, rescuing her scrimshaw doll. Scarlett glowered, sharpening her emerald gaze against the doll’s yellowed bones.
Darcy held the doll close, nestling the smooth, carved face into her neck, stroking its hair against her throat.
When I arrived at my great-grandmother’s estate sale, I was horrified to see peeping over the top of a cardboard auction box, the velveteen cat my mother—who died when I was only three— made for me when I was an infant. Just in the nick of time, I grabbed the stuffed toy out and the box sold to the highest bidder for like, three bucks.
“I attended school here in Chickasha. Sometimes I never quite made it. I’d wash up on the lakeshore at three o’clock instead.” Dr. Creighton grinned, a glint in his eyes.
Unlike Dr. Cabin Creighton, I attended school in Chickasha’s neighboring town of Anadarko, Oklahoma. I did, however, spend more than a few schooldays on the red shoreline of Chickasha Lake, just like Dr. Creighton.
And, last but not least, the final example of my inexcusable twisting of fact into fiction.
Once, as a young girl, Scarlett whispered Darcy’s name through the keyhole of her bedroom door. Darcy knocked, then twisted the knob. Finding it locked, she’d dropped to her knees, peering through the keyhole into the shadowy room. Puzzled, she’d raised her head—just as a straightened coat hanger plunged through the opening, nicking her cheek.
Yes, I almost lost an eyeball. As a child, my sister plunged a straightened coat hanger through the keyhole, barely missing my eye. I moved just in time. Oh—I should mention one little discrepancy—she hadn’t called my name through the opening. I was just spying. Guess I deserved it.
So, there you have it, the secret of my dreadful truth-borrowing tendency revealed. Wow, I feel so much lighter now. Like a weight has been lifted off my shoulders.
Thanks for letting me unload on you. But—just so you know—I plan to do it again, borrowing truth at every opportunity.
Because truth makes great fiction.
Now it’s your turn. Is anyone brave enough to come clean and share examples of the ways truth has enhanced your fiction?
Truth in the name of fiction. You know you’ve done it.
Skinbound is available at:
Barnes and Noble
The Wild Rose Press