• Shea Robinson

Writing Tip: Blending real and fantasy

Growing up, I would visit my Nana. She was a famous art critic and most afternoons we would talk about art and writing. One time she said, “Everything is fiction, because everything is told from our own point of view.” To put it another way, no matter what story we’re telling, it’s always non-fiction because it’s always our truth. Today’s prompt plays with this interplay of fiction and non-fiction. Start with a memory from your life. Write down the facts. Give as many details as possible. Aim for 100-200 words of prose or four stanzas of poetry. Then, take the same memory and tell it like a story. Embellish the details. Make the story come alive. What do you notice about your writing? What writing techniques did you use for non-fiction. For fiction? Which do you prefer reading? Which did you prefer writing?

Non-fiction: My grandparents lived in a big two-story house that used to be a duplex, which meant there was a kitchen on both floors. The carpets were thick and green. The staircase wound up to the second floor in a circle. I knew rationally that my mom lived here as a little girl, grew up here, but even when I was standing in her room, I could not picture it. I never liked to go up to the second floor by myself. Though I didn’t believe in ghosts, it never felt safe. And at night, it got unwholly dark. My grandmother was the kind of woman who would talk to my mom about my eating habits, but then keep an old antique vase filled with candy. A trip to my grandparents was never complete without a walk on the seashore. Bundled up against the wind and the cold, plastic bags stuffed in our pockets, we would spend hours searching for butterfly seashells and skipping rocks.

Fiction: Visiting my grandparents was like a fermata in music—a break between chords, a pause in the music. While I was always excited for the seashells we would collect on the beach, I didn’t know how to exist in the spaces in between. I knew my Nana cared for me, but she was also an austere woman who wanted something from me, and I never knew what that was. Their house was a like a fairytale, part magic, part hidden secrets. A lush carpet so green that it must hide fairies. A stairwell that creaked alerting the other side of your presence. An outside garden so overgrown and wild that it must have a secret passageway. The house was quiet but moving, like if you held your breath and listened hard enough you might hear the stories. Slammed doors and leftover arguments. Excited jitters and dancing in the living room. Anxious handwringing while listening to the news on the radio.

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