I’ve been thinking lately about fiction and nonfiction, how they can merge and separate until one becomes the other. Especially I’ve been thinking about the technique of pause in nonfiction, a liberal stepping outside, pausing the narrative, to pursue a possibly fictional what if this had happened?
Fiction writing has as one of its compelling qualities the possibility of being real. When the narrative is paused, fiction and nonfiction can become intermixed as a writer finds herself or himself stepping back from fiction to the real, to actual stories, the unembellished past. When the edges of imagination become too thin to keep a writer aloft, s/he can just let go. What really happened may provide a sort of reorientation. When the writer’s imagination is recharged by the real, or at least the remembered real, another pause to follow a fictional path will present itself.
After enough years, these pauses can become quite lengthy and take on the appearance of actual story. In other words, the pause may become the story and the return to the nonfiction frame may become the fiction.
Once the paused fiction has become the dominant narrative, the next step is another pause from the now functioning narrative to a newer fiction – a pause within a pause, within a pause and so forth. If you live long enough, you may find yourself far from the original home with no maps back, even if you want them. Another question might be who would want them, but that is for another discussion. Making the attempt to find your way forward in these new narratives will keep you writing and attempting to answer the questions who am I? and/or how did I get here? Whether or not you can answer these questions does not matter. You are writing fiction, the pauses are infinite, and the converted narrative may very well be the superior one.
Brian Fitch lives in western Wisconsin with his wife the poet Jennifer Brantley and their cat Moxie. His fiction or poetry has appeared in North American Review, Prairie Schooner, Sewanee Review, Helsinki Quarterly, Ars Interpres, Bark, and others. Brian appears in issue 296.3, Summer 2011 as well as the current issue 300.2 with his story “Nothing Is Always the Same”.
Illustrations by Clay Rodery, an illustrator who lives and works in Brooklyn, New York. Clay’s illustrations have been featured in the North American Review issues 298.4, 299.1, 299.3 and the most recently is in issue 299.4, Fall 2014 and most recently 300.2, Spring 2015.