In honor of the general release of Tyrone Jaeger’s So Many True Believers, a story collection National Book Award-finalist Lauren Groff (Fates and Furies) says is “linked like a set of Christmas lights, a series of bright bulbs glowing against the cold and dark night,” we give you the official book trailer. Many thanks to filmmakers Ali Bair and Kate Engler–and to the author himself, of course.
Perception and paranoia from Dina Guidubaldi, author of the forthcoming How Gone We Got:
Names, characters, places, and incidents are products of the author’s imagination, and any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
Recently, at the nth hour, I changed a character’s name in my upcoming collection because I worried it sounded too much like a real-life name of a person I once knew. This self-imposed edit felt wrong somehow—to worry so much that someone might…might what? Take offense? Think I was obsessing about them while they didn’t remember me at all? Accuse me of stalking? I don’t quite know what was behind the name change. Maybe I felt the name was too much—too close to real life, even though the character was honestly (honest!) not.
The main thing fiction has going for it is its lovely lying powers, its deceptive ability. Fiction has, waiting in its wings, bursting at its seams, a host of alien landscapes and evil henchmen and freakish occurrences—why would you avoid that? Why would you not use those fantastic props—all those swords and shit? I don’t get those writers who have a whole blank page in front of them and choose to tell the truth about themselves, to change a name or place here or there and call it fiction. So, was I feeling like one of them—those memoir-masquerading-as-fiction folk? Was that behind the tiny name change, some kind of artistic pride, some kind of guilt over not being fictitious enough?
Similarly, I worry that when this collection comes out, loved (or not-so-loved) ones will suddenly think they’re being written about, in possibly unflattering terms. When you write about a sleazy father, suddenly it’s your sleazy father; when a character has a cheating ex, it’s assumed to be the author’s cheating ex. Again, I blame those memoiry-writers for screwing up the fiction bar, but perhaps I should blame myself, for not making things real-seeming enough? Or wait: fake enough? I’m not sure. But I changed that name, nervous about what someone somewhere might think. And while all the characters in my work are further away than they (hopefully) appear, the “entirely coincidental” part of anyone’s writing is likely untrue.
Stephen King somewhat famously wrote that “fear is at the root of most bad writing,” a quote I quote often, whenever I go around quoting things. Being worried about who’s gonna think what never helps. But that bit of advice opens up a host of other questions: What exactly am I afraid of? Isn’t fear sometimes good? Doesn’t fear keep you from ripping off “The Metamorphosis,” say? Shouldn’t I be worried that I’m writing like an asshole here, in this blog, or over there, in my story collection? Is my protesting too much about my characters being wholly their own simply coming across as protesting too much? As being disingenuous? Or paranoid? Am I paranoid? Seriously, would that person-whose-name-sounds-like-one-of-my-characters’-names even read my book? What’s wrong with me, anyway? Are other writer-people this obsessed with perception? How come Andrew’s blog last week was so much funnier and on-point than mine?