AGE OF HOPE (by D.Bergen) for Abbotsford Workshop

Hi David,
  I’m off in a week,  second stop in Abbotsford where I am  doing a workshop called “Writing poetry and fiction about family matters,” on the 29th, Sunday morning. I have started gathering comments about two aspects of what is of most interest, to me  at least … Even in writing fiction most writers borrow from their lived experience AND make shit up. How exactly does that work? Do you have any ethical responsibility to the people close to you about how you borrow from their lives? And what happens when you end up making stuff up at the same time.  SO let me try again – where does truth lie in writing, and is it different with different obligations for the poet, novelist, memoirist or biographer?

Hi Victor,

I don’t write non fiction or memoir, possibly because I feel freer with fiction. Or that’s simply what I read. And I read it because it goes deeper than the other forms, except for poetry, about which I know little, though I read it as a neophyte.

That’s not completely true—I really loved An American Childhood by Dillard. The writing soared, so maybe it comes down to the writing.
You use the word ‘obligation’, and for the fiction writer there is only one obligation: to make it read like it actually happened, which maybe it does sometimes, but there’s no good story that I’ve read where the author says, “This all happened.” I don’t believe it, and ultimately I don’t care. Make me believe, and I will accept any piece of writing. 

When I wrote The Age of Hope, I used Mary’s mother’s life to a great extent, down to very specific details, but Hope is not Doris. Hope is a bigger version of Doris, extended, added to, made more poetic, and in the end more believable than if I had simply written down the ‘truth’ of Doris’s life. I’ve never been great at invention, but then I’m not a fan of invention unless it moves the character believably towards an inevitable conclusion. Character governs the story, and character in fiction is never a real person. But she might be truer than the real person.






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