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ground that included concrete reasons for his feelings. Here’s an excerpt illustrating that. Monday was laundry day. Frank stood at the stove dipping hot water out of the boiler, his bass voice rumbling something from Tchaikovsky. He seemed to be in a good mood. Maybe this was the time for Tina to ask him. “Frank?” “Yeah?” “I’ve been thinking.” Tina dropped a flannel sheet into the washtub and rubbed a bar of laundry soap over it. “We haven’t invited the Fehrs or Brauns over since we got married. Or the Friesens or any of our other Mennonite neighbours.” “So?” Frank’s expression was as blank as dough. “We could ask some of them to come for coffee, maybe Sunday afternoon.” He dumped a pail of hot water into the washtub and swirled it around, mixing it with the cooler water. “What makes you think the Fehrs and Brauns and them want to visit with us?” “Why wouldn’t they?” “Come on, Tina. You know as well as I do. I don’t fit in with the Mennonites. They didn’t even invite me to the men’s breakfast.” “That’s because we don’t attend church regularly.” He snorted. “Don’t fool yourself. They think I’m not good enough for them.” “How can you say that?” Tina scrubbed the sheet on the washboard. “They practically begged you to play your guitar at the Christmas concert.” “Sure, but you know what they were thinking: ‘Gypsies are great entertainers. You’ve got to admit that. In Russia they played and sang like angels. But you didn’t dare turn your back on them. First thing you knew, they’d pick your pocket or steal your horse.’” Tina rolled her eyes. How could Frank keep harping on the few Fall 2015 ◆ WordWorks ◆ Page 10

stories he’d heard about Russian Gypsies? There were worse characters in Russia, far worse. She dropped the sheet into the rinse water and jerked her chin at it. “You could rinse that sheet now.” Frank swirled it through the water. “I’d rather visit with Scandinavians or British people any day. They don’t carry all that Russian baggage.”

Fictionalizing the lives of family members can be tricky. What if they don’t like what you write? Fights could ensue. Your writing could cause a rift in the family. One way to avoid negative responses is to share your journey with the people you’re fictionalizing. This is especially advisable if you plan to have your story stick close to the facts. Sharing can reduce the chances of hurting and/or angering people. It may also open a new channel of communication, giving you a better understanding of your emerging story. I showed parts of Consider the Sunflowers to some of my relatives as I was writing it. They encouraged me to continue and mentioned details of our family life that I had forgotten or never known. Their input enriched the story. On the other hand, suppose you don’t want to discuss your writing with the real people you’re fictionalizing? In that case it may be wise to swing the narrative farther away from the facts. Suppose you’d like to write about your aunt, who abandoned her grandfather on a sinking ship and swam to shore. The trouble is you’re sure your aunt will object to having this story told. Could you fictionalize her as a woman who abandons her baby on the steps of a convent? Or as a woman who abandons her mentally challenged brother in Surrey and returns to India to seek her missing husband? If you changed your aunt’s name, background, mannerisms, and appearance, she wouldn’t be likely to recognize herself. Despite such drastic changes, your story’s main ideas and emotions could still be the same. For example, your main character might:

Weigh different courses of action. Try to justify an action though it seems doubtful or wrong. Undertake the action and then second-guess it. Wonder later what happened to the abandoned person. Try to reunite and reconcile with the abandoned person. Write to understand human nature, to explore why people do what they do. How do their actions reveal their humanity—faulty, frail, sometimes despicable but also unique, interesting, and potentially redeemable? The prospect of discovering universal truths beckons us forward in writing. In fictionalizing, we may make stories even more real, closer to the heart of the human condition.

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Wordworks Fall 2015  

WordWorks Fall 2015 issue was devoted to the ideas of retreats and readings, with many thoughtful and engaging articles, and a whole new des...

Wordworks Fall 2015  

WordWorks Fall 2015 issue was devoted to the ideas of retreats and readings, with many thoughtful and engaging articles, and a whole new des...

Profile for fbcw
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