As the saying goes “truth is stranger than fiction” as I continue to value my experiences in this world, not only is it true, but sometimes, truth is at least, if not more, compelling than fiction.
When non-fiction enters my mind, I immediately think of biographies, a long time favorite read since childhood. I’ve read about the lives of Judy Garland to Napoleon and find them all amazing (isn’t that the catch-word these days? Yes, I use it too.) They began as regular people, like us, and their lives were far from perfect despite great achievements, being entertainer or emperor. Like I wrote in “On the Lives of Writers” in biographies legendary people love, hate, feel happiness, despair, and sometimes live out long fulfilling lives while others fall from grace.
In non-fictional stories, on my short list of favorites is “Seabiscuit” by Laura Hillenbrand. With my usual see movie/read book habit, I really couldn’t believe how great this book was as I read it. And it’s one of my favorite films. Books and films for me rarely pair together as close as these did. The film gave us the stories of the three men behind the rise of the legendary racehorse, and Hillenbrand told a magnificent story sparing the reader no details about the lives of all of them, including rules behind the horse racing industry (serious business), the appalling lives of jockeys back then, and what happened to everyone after Seabiscuit’s retirement. The saddest to me was the fate of acclaimed jockey George Woolf; sometimes the brightest lights burn the shortest time.
In non-fiction writing, I admire these writers, because to me, they are creators as well, like a huge term paper that’s researched while entertaining to read. That’s doesn’t look like an easy effort to me. At least the world is already created, but the author still needs to educate the reader about the world we know during the time he/she writes about. There is a non-fiction story I’d like to tell, but when I sat down to put together the data I gathered, I realized quickly as a writer, I’m not ready. When a writer steps up to tell fiction, that’s what it is: Fiction, research helpful, but not an absolute necessity. For non-fiction: Writer, you’d better do your research and get your facts straight, because there’s always someone who thinks they know the history better. (Though I’ve never seen “Seabiscuit” the book challenged).
Writers, if you’re writing non-fiction, I’d like to hear (read) about it, even though fiction is the main topic of this blog. While I like my dark fantasy dagger wielding knee-biter heroine Shevata, someday I hope to write the piece of non-fiction that I think deserves telling. And most of all, non-fiction gives us remembrance to those who lived before us, and in their passing left us with something we can learn from their lives.