Sunday, February 27, 2011

Disclaimer: This is a work of blog reality

You are not fond of disclaimers of any sort; they seem to you to have an immediate air about them of department chairpersons, late for a meeting or of a generalized portrait of defensiveness, which is a quality you dislike in yourself, and try to purge at any cost.  Defensiveness is among the first thing you look out for when you revise, either your own text or someone else's.  I'm not often late; this is redacted to, I was late this time, an admission that makes you pleased for all the excuses you could have used, including the more apt one of having lost track of the time, but did not offer as an excuse.

Thus you have in yet another way defined yourself in sufficient degree to move on toward your intended nub, the disclaimer that this book, story, film, play, and yes, even poem, was based on an incident in real life.  Oh, please.  Aren't dramatic narratives supposed to suggest, even evoke a reality so effective and pulsing that it causes us as readers or viewers to feel concern for the safety and well being of the characters involved?  Aren't poems in some degree set upon us by their creators with the intent of causing us to see at least two realities--the actual one and the one we have made of the actual one--in ways we have not before seen them?

You find the real life disclaimer most distasteful in film perhaps because of the perception of the producers that this information will make the wavering ticket buyer hasten to the box office, but also because of the perception that numbers of potential audience members will go out of their way to see a story "based" on some event.  This speaks also to the condition where many readers will prefer a fictionalized version of an historical event because the truth can be hinted at ion format greater effect than it could in a non-fiction format.

Are we readers being sold story as though it were non-fat milk, or at a, say, two-percent level?  When an event is based on what happened, where does the magic of story end and the dreary pallor of reality color the text.  And wasn't it M. Focault who said there was no difference between fiction and history,thus history should be shelved with the novels?

The individuals and incidents in this story are fictional. Any similarity between actual persons and events is purely coincidental.  Yeah, right.  The disclaimer is there in that case so that Uncle Arnold won't sue.  The disclaimer is also there to suggest that the similarities are so effective because they damned well match actual persons and events and the publisher wishes all those who are apt to do so to believe they are getting a diplomatic presentation of The Truth as opposed to only a simulacrum.

In a workshop situation, you have encountered on numerous occasions the defensiveness that comes when the writer, asked to regard some trope or other, perhaps even an entire situation where the dramatic bridge needs greater construction, will defend, But it really happened that way.  Your response, Doesn't matter.  If presented that way, it is bad story, will send the perpetrator howling and complaining that you are trying to rob them of their creativity.

You, who almost became a newspaper reporter, needed years to get beyond the terrible attraction of transforming the real into the fictional.  What helped was your attempt at using what you considered effective dialogue; no one knew what you were talking about.  Of course not; it's too dramatic.  People only go so far in journalism; they go over the edge in fiction.

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