Ask any writer and she will tell you that fiction is drawn from real life. Sure, there are times when I wish this wasn’t true, especially when I’m watching teenage slasher movies on NetFlicks. But even then, I realize that much of the horror is drawn from our own fears and uncertainties, and yes, our own less than healthy psyches.
Certainly, in a genre like mine, semi-cozy, semi-noir mysteries, many of the events, characters, and certainly the scenes are drawn from real life. If nothing else, real life inspires the creative processes in a writer, who always approaches every incident, news story, personal encounter with the question, “what if…?”
Recently, however, as I was working on a scene in the Hot Dog Detective series, fiction and real life became entwined in a more personal, and somewhat painful, way.
I was working on the scene in which MacFarland’s father dies. Donald MacFarland lives in a retirement home, gets good care, but has suffered brain damage and several heart attacks. Everyone knows his time is coming, but when it does, it catches MacFarland off guard. He had always assumed that his brother Robert would handle events like this. Unfortunately, Robert is nowhere in sight, and it is up to MacFarland to handle on his own the situation of his father’s death.
MacFarland’s approach is to zip through the process as quickly as he can. He wants to clean out his father’s apartment at the living center as soon as possible. He would prefer to just throw everything of his father’s into the dumpster, but Cynthia Pierson insists that they should sort the possessions, determining what to keep, what to give to charity, what to throw away.
Clearly, MacFarland wants to escape from the reality of his father’s death. Pierson, on the other hand, wants to preserve his memory.
As I was writing this scene, I was reminded of my own mother’s passing. I didn’t do much to handle the arrangements for her final resting place; that was all taken care of by my sisters, who had lived with my mother. My excuse was that I was a thousand miles away.
The truth is, that like MacFarland, I couldn’t deal with my mother’s departure. It was easier to work on my stories, pretend it didn’t happen, and when I couldn’t pretend, to race through the formalities as quickly as possible.
Writing the scenes about Donald MacFarland’s death was therapeutic for me, allowing me to finally admit that my own mother was gone and I had to live with only her memories.
And a statue my mother wanted me to have. My sisters promised they would send it to me. I still haven’t gotten it.
Hey, I wonder if I can include that incident in the Hot Dog Detective story?