By Davalynn Spencer
We’ve all heard it said: Truth is stranger than fiction.
I’ll not argue about who first made that observation, but I do like Mark Twain’s tongue-in-cheek defense of the premise: “… it is because fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities; truth isn’t.”
Possibilities were what I needed last year as I researched a protagonist’s goals and obstacles for a contemporary romance proposal. The heroine was a chef, and I needed something to make her life so miserable that it affected her career.
But of course! What could be worse than a sinus infection eliminating her ability to taste and smell?
And then the pandemic hit.
Many people who contracted COVID-19 began reporting the exact ailment I was using in my story. This prompted questions from close friends who knew what I was working on.
“Will you put the virus in your book?”
I probably surprised them with my less than discreet reply.
“No way. Never. Not in a million years!”
The story became my personal platform against what was attacking our nation, economy, and citizenry, and I was not about to give the virus any more time in the spotlight.
Of course the pandemic would make its way into many stories – fiction and nonfiction. But I did not want that much reality in my novella, reminding readers of an actual nightmare while they tried to escape into light-hearted romance.
However, it turned out that I was the one who could not escape realism. It rose to the surface again when I consulted with one of my advisors, a former executive chef. My character’s setting had to be exactly right, the story world plausible, so I asked this five-star chef all about commercial kitchens. I learned a great deal about them, how expensive they can be, and how critical it is to have the proper equipment, particularly the range hood.
When I explained the health challenge my heroine faced, the chef calmly replied, “That happened to me.”
And so another adage stirred to life: “Too good to be true.”
This time, I did not run from the truth but embraced it. It is hard to imagine what it would be like to lose two senses upon which your livelihood depends. My source graciously shared what caused his suffering, how he continued to cook in spite of it, and what it was like to regain over time the gifts of taste and smell.
And gifts they are. How dull and dangerous this world would be without the ability to smell or taste.
We have so many gifts from the Creator that we often take them for granted, or worse yet, believe we are entitled to them.
As Christian novelists, we work with the incredible gift of storytelling. We get to pick and choose what truths we share in our fiction, and how exactly to couch them – whether brutally or tenderly, depending upon our genre and audience.
May we always be sensitive to the Lord’s leading as we write. What a blessing it is to spread the fragrance of His knowledge through our words, enticing readers to taste and see that He is good.Fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities; truth isn't. @davalynnspencer #ACFWBlogs #writetip #critiques #ACFWCommunity Click To Tweet
Wife and mother of professional rodeo bullfighters, Davalynn Spencer can’t stop #lovingthecowboy. She writes award-winning Western romance, both contemporary and historical, teaches writing workshops, and wrangles Blue the Cowdog and mouse detectors Annie and Oakley. Connect with her at www.davalynnspencer.com.
Truth can be so very odd
with no logic-recompense
save mystery that’s born of God,
but fiction has to make some sense,
and this is why I now have turned
from movies, and the well-told tale,
for in cancer I have learned
that story-arcs do not prevail
against a brutal, mindless foe
whose ways defy ordered belief,
and in this I’ve come to know
that there is found light and relief
in this journey through the dark
when narrative ends with question-mark.
Well-said, Andrew. May that question mark be the curve of His arm around you.
Davalynn, that’s such a lovely way of looking at it! Thank you, for this moment of peace and softness your words have given me today.