Truth is stranger than fiction. We’ve all heard that one before. But I saw something very disturbing that I thought I’d share.
Across the street, and in full view of the window by where I do all my gazing writing, I saw my seventy-year-old neighbor smoking from a small bronze colored pipe. In. Broad. Daylight. This is not the wooden pipe our grandfathers smoked, nor is this a grandfather, but a grandmother. Are you with me so far?
So she keeps taking hits from this metal contraption, tapping it upon occasion, while I keep my face smashed up against the window in disbelief. I feel a bit voyeuristic and unneighborly and unsatisfied.
Because now I need to tell someone.
Who can I call that would believe this? No one will. It’s too out of character for a mature woman who spends her days puttering in her yard and garden to be standing in her driveway getting high.
Surely there’s a good reason why her mind snapped, and I should be doing all I can to help her through her crisis. Instead, I call my mother, she’ll believe it. Mother has been threatening to snap in a similar manner for years. But just as I punch her numbers, I see my neighbor take her pipe and screw it into the ground then turn on her sprinkler system where water now flows clog-free, and my phone returns to its cradle, and my red face slides down the window to meet my slumped body on my seat.
So that, my friends, is my lesson today on believable characters. We wouldn’t suddenly have one of our fictional characters do something outside their profile. Like I tried to pull in my own writing (and with my neighbor). Yesterday in my critique group, a member asked me if I was still submitting my book as fiction. When I said yes, she said, while this scene worked when it was told as memoir, as fiction, it’s out of character.
Ah, yes. The ole truth-is-more-believable and stay-in-character advice. I needed it in more ways than one.