living local fiction again

Trying to capture gently falling snow

Trying to capture gently falling snow

 

Seeing what we know well turned upside-down (even without its double standing unreflected above) will surprise and refresh our thoughts of it.  However, Maine writer Monica Wood says there are drawbacks.

“The author perceives his own region in his own unique way; it may not square very well with his neighbor’s perception of the same place. The author risks being accused of either romanticizing or criticizing the place. A reader once took great issue with me for placing a fictional bakery on a real-life street, for example.”

 

The literalness-of-place interpretation by a reader is one of the hazards of writing local fiction. I would like to see readers familiar with the region of which I am writing be inspired to a re-imagined view of the place I’ve recreated. Instead readers may choose a trivial take, seeing if they can ferret out the actual on which settings or characters may, to their minds, have been based. They may mistakenly think they see a personal likeness based upon what may have been an actual incident.

But, in the true spirit of creativity, events and incidents have been transmuted into something completely new, unattached to whomever it happened in real life. It’s not my business as a creative writer of fiction to try to recreate an actual person on the page. There is no creative challenge in this but an attempt at a sort of sterile photography, or even a deep lack of creativity. (When making fiction, not non-fiction.) For who is competent to recreate those persons so well in God’s image? I’d also rather know the real person safe in his or her personhood than arrogantly display a botched image.

So, instead of real people, I use types. The whole work, from my side of the desk, is to evoke a sort of green time, dreamtime-place; upside-down inside-out, real- but unreal-land; for readers’ ultimate reawakening and release. Returning through this escape, a reader is refreshed, renewed, seeing old things anew, not trying to cut and dry new things into the shape of the old. This is the hope of my craft.

The other day, while snowshoeing we “got turned around” in the woods, as we say here. Too, this happened to me when alone last year. It is a strange experience. We thought we knew where we were, things looked as expected—until they didn’t. On snowshoes one needs no marked trail in the woods if there’s the willingness to go back on one’s trail. The webbed shoe prints behind you will bring you safely home. Sometimes, however, you feel adventurous, or confident of your position, and want to strike out for a different way home. We moved ahead through trees on unmarked snow, but slowly things began to feel different in some indefinite way. We were in tall trees and thickets but the familiar hills were in place above and beyond the boles—or so I thought. Presently I say a mysterious broad band of snow ribboning through the trees. Where had that come from? It did not relate at all to the hillside I’d been using for landmark, one I had thought stood above our house.

Coming out onto the strip we found it a snowy lane. One I had never seen before.

Or? —I saw landmark structures, a dark blue house through trees over that way, a snowy camp up there … and suddenly it was like looking in Alice’s glass. How could these familiar things look so out of place?

But it was oddly grand.  Everything new again! And R. was for going toward the camp—wrong direction to get to the road!

A road we must cross to get home. For, without knowing, we had circled back just to the east of our turning for home … about an hour before.

Still trying

Still trying

3 responses

  1. Your story of the landscape looking familiar until suddenly it doesn’t–it makes me think: this is the sensation of having been transported to an alien world, of walking through the wardrobe to Narnia. Because you knew where you were, and then suddenly, in one instant, you became aware you were elsewhere.

    There’s an interesting essay by the person who goes by the LJ handle steepholm on sense of place in fiction, and how people read it. The essay ran in Strange Horizons–I should see if I can find it for you.

    Your photos did catch the gently falling snow 🙂

    Like

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