Reality vs fiction in the family narrative

I know some writers who have gotten in deep doo-doo over the years by writing about their family –[cough]Michael[cough]– where do you draw the lines around what is “true” and what is made up for the sake of the tale? And that’s what this article explores.

In her 1955 essay “Place in Fiction,” Eudora Welty talks about the writer’s role in managing reality: “The business of writing, and the responsibility of the writer [is] to disentangle the significant—in character, incident, setting, mood, everything—from the random and meaningless and irrelevant that in real life surround and beset it. It is a matter of his [the writer] selecting and, by all that implies, of changing ‘real’ life as he goes.” Being a writer of a certain type of fiction, in other words, is about taking reality and making it make sense for the narrative at hand. Meaning sometimes a writer has to do a lot of altering to real things, real people, real stories; Meaning you ultimately disappear from the narrative even though your t-shirt remains on the bed in chapter four.

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