"... whatever the genre may be, fiction does its work by creating a dream in the reader's mind."
John Gardner, The Art of Fiction
When a writer develops a character that readers identify with, the annoying interview question or assumption often is that the writing is autobiographical. And while writers do pull from their lives, once a character has emerged there is often little that resembles the "real life" of his or her creator. The writer has created the conduit for an emotional truth. The character is the voice. The story is the dream we hope and long to fall into.
The yellow quilt came to me from a fiction writer, a former teacher and former neighbor. She is also still a good friend despite the fact that we only see each other once a year. I have no history with this quilt. I don't know who made it, who wore the cut up clothing, what babies were conceived beneath.
But I can still feel an energy and a voice channeling through its folds.
So it's going to become something else, and in this transformation will begin to tell a story. I am not treating this quilt as an heirloom, I have to see it as a found object otherwise I can't begin to do this work.
Heirlooms are precious.
Found objects are treasure.
There is a difference.
This story isn't autobiographical, but it bears an emotional truth that will resonate with some women.
And perhaps some men.
What I'm about to do might feel like sacrilege to many. The scariest part about this idea of mine is that it might not even work. Some large and potentially ruinous cuts are in my future, with an end result guaranteed to be something not many people love. But this is how change comes and how stories are told, whether or not you like the change.
Or the story.
“In writing, you must kill all your darlings.”
Delete. Edit. Unpick. Rip. Cut. Kill. Revise.
And then begin again.
Tell the new story.
Get it right.