695. You wrote it, it must be true

695fiction

I just shot my mother. She was hanging out the washing. She was reaching into the basket to pick up one of my shirts to hang on the line, and I pulled the trigger.

Bang! Dead! Just like that. I had told her to change the brand of laundry powder. The one she used stank of lemons. I’d walk around stinking like lemon zest. All my friends would say poo! Did she change the brand? No! So bang! That’ll be the last shirt she’ll hang.

“The shirt is not the only thing that will hang,” said the judge at the trial for my mother’s murder.

“But,” I said, “I’m a fiction writer. I make up stories. My stories are not true. I didn’t murder my mother. I don’t know who did. I wrote that piece about her murder before she was murdered.”

“So what you’re saying is that it was premeditated?” said the judge.

“It wasn’t premeditated at all,” I said. “It was a piece of fiction writing.”

“But fiction must mirror life,” said the judge. “Clearly all writing to some extent must be autobiographical.”

The jury agreed with the judge.

I’m writing this from Death Row. Perhaps if I write about my innocence they’ll start to understand how fiction works.

52 thoughts on “695. You wrote it, it must be true

    1. Bruce Goodman Post author

      I used to detest it – when working in a school library – when a teacher would say (in a little kiddie voice to the little kiddies): Here is the fiction, and over here is the non-fiction. Non-fiction is true, and fiction is… NOT true! I had to bite my tongue. The greatest truths, the real ones, are in the fiction section!

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        1. Bruce Goodman Post author

          I like the novelists and journalists’ use of the word “story” to describe what they do. I have a feeling that many a scientist might take offence at the word: “Oh no – I write the facts, and have a monopoly therefore on the truth…” 😦 It’s interesting that we’re talking about this when you have been reading Janet Frame’s autobiography which deals in part with similar questions.

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          1. Cynthia Jobin

            Yes, Janet Frame’s wonderful autobiography is a perfect example of truth’s ambiguities unfolding, not only from actual events, people, and places, but also from the invisible life of the mind and heart.

            There’s a difference between fact and truth. And I would never want to deal with some people’s believing there is something called “objectivity” as opposed to “subjectivity.” Is a biography more objective and true than an autobiography? How laughable to think that one’s own story of one’s life is somehow less true than the account of a stranger—someone who is not oneself and didn’t actually live that life.

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            1. Bruce Goodman Post author

              Yes – and as my cousin Leila used to say in her dotage: Now that I’m older I realise that everything I wanted when I was younger would have been a mistake; so if I write my past today it shall be with wiser eyes.

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    1. Bruce Goodman Post author

      Thank you. I once wrote a play – called “Here Legends Lie” – it wasn’t very successful, but it was about a real mayor of a NZ town who was a huge bull-crap artist. Somehow the truth got through!

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    1. Bruce Goodman Post author

      Thank you, Chris. I remember, years ago, a teenage kid coming to me and saying how bad he felt because he was so ugly. I repeated the story of The Ugly Duckling and have always remembered his response: “That’s true!”

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  1. arlingwoman

    This is like At Swim Two Birds where the author is put on trial, among other things, for the pain he caused his cow by not milking her (i.e., not mentioning her for page after page in the novel). Isn’t it amazing how people think fiction has to be “true?” In the sense of has to have happened? So many times I have wanted to scream when an interviewer asks a fiction writer, “What in your life made you…” I want them to say, “Nothing. I made it up.” There’s something about the creative process that people don’t understand. By the way, I read A Passing Shower, which I loved. You do really wonderful unreliable narration, Bruce. There was the part where Cob wrote that Yvonne had died and then Yvonne comes back in. I bet she has further adventures at the farm in Quebec. I liked Mattie as well and the way she went to find Yvonne. It was a romp and I needed one today, stuck in the airport and not going anywhere. Back home to try again tomorrow.

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    1. Bruce Goodman Post author

      WOW! Another person is reading my novel! That’s a privilege, thank you. I should start charging! Do you know, I have never read At Swim Two Birds. I am inspired – I shall be getting it from the library!

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      1. arlingwoman

        I don’t know how things get published or not, but it seems the right person in the right mood on the right day, having just heard the boss wants something like your book, and after a 2nd cup of coffee has to grasp the manuscript and be sucked in and if all these things don’t happen, people wind up reading it for free on the internet and thinking WTF why am I not paying for this? Swim Two Birds is a hoot. I think you’ll like it. I really liked when the cow testified.

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        1. Bruce Goodman Post author

          A New York publisher, George Braziller, kept the manuscript on his desk for 9 weeks wondering what to do with it! However, he’s the only publisher I ever sent it to! In New Zealand they ask for the name of your agent, and trying to get an agent requires naming your publisher! So I’ve never got either… don’t know how people do it.

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          1. Cynthia Jobin

            Check out a copy of the latest Writer’s Market in the library….. you’ll find plenty of places to send it to….but be prepared to paper a whole wall with rejections, if you can stand it…before even hoping for an acceptance. Publishers are in business to make money, and that’s how they judge your manuscript: will it make money? And not necessarily whether or not it has merit as a piece of writing.

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          2. arlingwoman

            The agent thing is tough. You have to research who did for the books you like. Here, you need the agent first and no one asks about a publisher. I imagine you could get a British agent or even a NY agent. You have to figure out what they like and target them. But I’ve never been successful either, though I’ve thought I came close. Ha. Fat lot of good…

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            1. Bruce Goodman Post author

              I think – as I almost just said to Cynthia (either above or below!) that I’m getting too old to spend time publishing when I could be out in the garden!!! And perhaps anyway, a novel might not bring in the dollars – unless they made a film out of it! Speaking of which – Jane Campion’s (The Piano) father once directed one of my plays!!!!

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    1. Bruce Goodman Post author

      I didn’t think the audio added anything, so I took it off (space is precious!) It was just me reading it, and I thought that everyone is more than capable of reading it themselves! There will be an audio tomorrow of tomorrow’s! And we should all knit Bianca a jumper in thanks! It is indeed cool!

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      1. Cynthia Jobin

        I have A Passing Shower downloaded on my laptop, but mea culpa, Bruce, between the fact of eyestrain and that I never read novels (but do intend to read yours, because it’s yours) I have yet to enjoy all these good things your fans are saying about it….I’ll get to it…I’ll get to it…:-)

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    1. Bruce Goodman Post author

      I answered the audio bit in my reply to Pauline above – sometimes an audio doesn’t add anything to the story and I leave it up to the speed-reader. And thanks for the update on the pen/sword motto! And P.S. I thought you’d gone away for your Labor Weekend…

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  2. noelleg44

    And exactly what, aside from the story, was their evidence?
    With regard to detergent, when we lived in Prague, we used a detergent called Polio – was lousy at cleaning but we always said it crippled the clothes.

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  3. Belinda Crane

    Loved this, loved this, loved this … This is brilliant Bruce. I was glued to the screen. Great story my friend. I loved this! (I know I already said that) Awesome storyline! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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