Like Facebook?

People tell their life story in a variety of ways these days, most of it out on the internet for all of us to gawk at, comment on, or shake our heads over.  But is it the truth?  Are we really the shiny, happy people we project ourselves to be in that picture that came along with an update and witty blurb?

If you think about it, social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube are the prime example of flash fiction, key word being fiction.  Like FB, a quick look at a picture and the comments below it can piece together something like a story.   Snippets of life that last for as long as it takes for your newsfeed page to scroll down as people add their own updates.  Sometimes, there are no new pictures, only a suggestive comment,  intended to invoke drama.

What’s it all about really?  I’ll tell you.  It’s about perception.

When was the last time you posted a picture or video out on Facebook, Youtube, or Twitter that was so downright UGLY, you figured no one would recognize you because it was your worst moment?   Have you ever posted one where you just got up, your hair is going in every direction, you have some goopy shit on your mouth, and eye boogers?    Did you post the one right after you ran in 90 degrees and humidity of 100% and your hair’s wet, your face is purple and you’re bent over like you’re going to throw up?  What about the one of you without any makeup, wearing baggy shorts and t-shirt, a.k.a. your slobsville outfit? Or the one where you were eating, your mouth wide open, eyes half shut?

Never?  Me neither.

Next!

When was the last time you weighed in and made a comment on a controversial subject or spouted an opinion that was 110% truth, even if  you knew it would hurt someone, or make others see you in a totally different light?  When was the last time you saw pictures, comments, videos of family, friends doing whatever, and you said, “Damn, ya’ll sure do look like shit in this picture!”  Or, “God knows, I sure am glad I wasn’t there, this looks like a bunch of spoiled rotten stuck up wannabes.” Or, “oh for Pete’s sake, stop putting pictures of you and your stupid boat, house, car, bike, vacations, parties, out here.  Nobody gives a shit about your shit!”

No?

Okay, two for two. (Look, I get this is what social media is about, but honestly, we share too much sometimes. )

Anyway, next!

if you participate in that pretty, picture perfect world known as social media, a somewhat fake world if you ask me, then, what about your writing?  In other words, what about your work in progress, that novel?  Will you tell the truth there?  What if the “truth” we see through your character is the truth about you, your life, your view of the world?  Would it matter to those around you, making them see you much differently?  Do you keep the truth hidden in your stories, because of how you want people to see or think of you?

My question is…are you treating your book like social media, only allowing what you want us to see?


COMMENTS

  • harryipants

    August 26, 2013

    Reply

    “are you treating your book like social media, only allowing what you want us to see?”

    It’s hard to tell. I don’t think I am, but how would I know, really?
    I think most of what we write is dragged up from somewhere inside us. Because I only write fiction, that doesn’t mean I’m including the events of my life in the writing — although an occasional unsavoury incident does creep in, and if truth was told, I’d usually be the one to look bad. But the feelings of our lives, ourselves, isn’t that what we’re really dragging up, torturing onto the page, and surely however we write them — if we’re really writers, in which case feel compelled to fill our lies full of truth — they will show off the best and the worst of who we are, who we hope we’ll become, who we dread to be, or might have already been.
    So, even though some characters — including some protagonists — in my stories look like the people of this Social Media you tell about, others look a lot more like I do in real life. Unshaven, wearing odd socks, with their various mental illnesses bashing holes and jagged memories into the perfectly decent and reasonable lives around them.
    So, when my books are published, those who know me will be embarrassed for me, and those who have to ask Was That For Real? will be answered with Of Course Not.
    But they’ll know.

    We’re writers. We have no hope of hiding who we are. That shit’s for actors.

    • donnaeve

      August 27, 2013

      Reply

      You nailed it… and there’s the saying “out there,” we’ve all heard, and was the point of the post, “if your mother would be embarrassed, you’re on the right track.” With fiction, I think it’s not uncommon to look at what happens around us and write about that. Our views or opinions can be exercised to some extent or fully when doing so. There’s a controversial topic I’ve been wanting to write about that occurred several decades ago, and if I had the chance. I’d take one particular character and use him to exercise my viewpoint …and like you…that character is the one who would most likely embarrass my family.

    • Averil Dean

      August 28, 2013

      Reply

      I should cut and paste Mr iPant’s reply. It says my truth so perfectly that I don’t need to say it for myself. Which is the same service we offer our readers, if we’re doing it right.

      • donnaeve

        August 28, 2013

        Reply

        I know…I loved his comment, I’ve read it a bunch.

  • Carolynnwith2Ns

    August 27, 2013

    Reply

    Donna, oh my, you are rattling the floorboards of my wagon. All I write is truth, it’s in my contract.
    Since my first published essay in ’88 about a neighbor who beat his wife, (I was a hell of lot more serious back then), to my latest column, (I’d rather do just about anything but clean my closet), I’m all about the truth. BUT…I am cognoscente of the feelings regarding the people I live with and love. I have trained myself to say serious stuff in a way that bites little and burns less. I really believe I can make a point without making people uncomfortable unless uncomfortable is what is called for.
    In non-fiction bullshit glows like a radioactive pile of poop and shit-heads do not recognize themselves so why not write it real.
    And about those FB pictures, I don’t have to post the bad ones because I look like crap most of the time anyway.
    I may be wrong but I believe all fiction is based on someone’s truth; candy coated or raw it’s five o’clock somewhere.

    • donnaeve

      August 27, 2013

      Reply

      That last sentence made me smile, and I too, am like you with the ones I live with and love…oh and the FB one made me smile too. LOL!

      So, no, I don’t mean to imply we ought to be assholes spouting nasty remarks, and spilling our guts just for the sake of being “real.” But for instance, if the story is about drug addiction and the writer suffers from this,, and tells his story using all fictional characters, he/she’d still be telling their truth. And, that comment we hear that I mentioned above to Harryi “if your mother would be embarrassed, you’re on the right track,” doesn’t mean you should give away her secret that she shaves her upper lip, or has had ten plastic surgeries…that’s a whole OTHER topic about truth and being eliminated from the will. 🙂

      • Carolynnwith2Ns

        August 27, 2013

        Reply

        Many years ago Op-ed was my thing. I could take any subject and squeeze an opinion out of it to suit what I knew the editors wanted. I shook a lot of hives, stirred a lot of bees. I was honest, straight-forward and stood by every single article I wrote. Well there was one…but that’s another story. Anyway when the feathers flew my husband asked me, “What kind of writer do you really want to be?”
        I could be a hard edge pisser-offer who told it like it was, or tone down the rhetoric, make the same point and maybe get a grin. If I mastered that, I owned the readers temperament, even if it was for a moment. I like that.
        Honest fiction, I’m still working on that.

        BTW this was a great post because, well, just because.

  • Myra King

    August 28, 2013

    Reply

    Top post, certainly made me think…

    The hardest thing I’ve ever written was a story about self abortion. A friend’s mother confessed on her death bed that she had done this.

    I thought how bloody scary, and how hard would that be! And most importantly, what would make someone so desperate ? (Not to mention the obvious moral dilemma.)

    My friend told me of the isolation she had endured when growing up, and how there were so many kids and so little money. I asked her if I could write a story based on this. I told her I would only use the theme of what had happened and of course names would be changed, as it would be my fiction. And, if it was ever published (which it was) I would ask her permission first. She readily agreed.

    It was such a challenge. I knew I needed to stay unbiased. Life has taught me generalisations rarely exist and that circumstances change outcomes and decisions. I wanted to leave the reader thinking, making their own assessment from their own experiences and empathy, not by what I had ‘told’ them but by what I had ‘said’.

    I guess my point is this: There is power in truth. Authenticity without judgement – we should seldom censor our writing. Well certainly not as much as we do our lives!

    • donnaeve

      August 28, 2013

      Reply

      Hello Myra!
      Wow. The idea of self abortion, the state of mind this person must have been in…, I can’t even begin to imagine it. What a sad, horrible place to find oneself.

      The other story… about your friend’s isolation… must have been very powerful and in some ways, I would imagine she might have felt some sense of closure over those tough, earlier years once it was published. (Maybe a realization that what she experienced meant something, was important enough to be heard, and was a story that needed to be told.)

      It’s hard not to censor sometimes isn’t it? Wiggling around the uncomfortable truth? I can always tell when I’m skirting an issue, or not really saying what I think or feel. Like I’m trying to block it out, but, at some point, I just take a deep breath and plunge in and hope for the best.

      Actually, writing this blog is like that a lot of times!


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