Normally my thing is creative nonfiction, but for this year's NaNo I'm writing fiction. I don't know what compelled me. Literally the longest fiction piece I've ever written was a terrible sci-fi play called-- I am not making this up-- "A Slip of Tongue and Time." This was back in the fourth grade. My friends Brian Arnold and Andy Young and I recorded our LIVE premiere performance direct to cassette tape in my room one weekend afternoon. I'm pretty sure I still have the original script somewhere.
I can't blame that early effort for my fiction avoidance in the intervening couple dozen years. Meticulous journal-keeping led naturally into longer nonfiction pieces. My real life never lacked for interesting material (still not sure if this is a good or bad thing), so it never occurred to me to make stuff up.
With nonfiction, I strive for accuracy. I struggle to remember things as they happened, think hard about truthful dialog, attempt painting yesterday's story from today's perspective without giving away the ending. I comb my journals for reference, double-check photos and old emails for authenticity. It's a lot of freakin' work.
Fiction, though. There's no background check required. The characters can say whatever they want. Go where they please, kiss whomever they like, change their minds at the very last minute about-- well, everything, hijacking the entire plot in the process. And me? I'm just along for the ride.
In real life, we're stuck with the choices we make, good or bad. We spoke words that cannot be unsaid; heard others that we cannot unhear. We had complex childhoods, disastrous middle school fashion, amazing adventures, failed relationships, and incredible days that could not be described. We forget many of those; others haunt us. Our past tags along like little burrs on our socks-- mostly unnoticed, with occasional unexpected pain.
Real life cannot be un-lived. Done is done. But the future-- that's wide open. Instead of feeling trapped by the parts you've played in the past, set your plot on its ass. Write your own happy ending.