Sunday, 20 March 2016

The real life benefits of made-up stories

It seems to me that there are two sorts of people: those who ‘get’ fiction, and those who don’t. While some of us see nothing strange in becoming totally involved with a fictional character who only lives in a novel, play or film, there are others who look on with puzzled frowns.

‘But it’s not real,’ they say. ‘There’s no such place, no such person. Why waste your time on something that’s pure make-believe?’

Here’s one of my reasons …

I was dreading going to the dentist. Over the years, I’ve had enough traumatic experiences connected with my teeth and dentists to fill a non-fiction book, one of those depressing misery memoirs. But, once again, I had a dental problem and knew I'd have to be brave if I wanted to solve it. Delaying a visit would only make matters worse.

My appointment wasn’t until the afternoon so, instead of worrying about it all morning, I tried to distract myself by working on my latest short story. I managed to write a few paragraphs, but the words weren’t flowing and I soon ground to a halt. I knew what had to happen next in the story but I couldn’t find the right way to explain it. After several attempts, I gave up.

In the dentist’s chair, I relaxed physically as much as I could while trying to convince myself that the ordeal would soon be over. I took a deep breath, closed my eyes and – there it was! The next sentence in my story. It was perfect. It moved the story on quickly and clearly, exactly as I’d wanted. I ‘wrote’ the next sentence, and the next, repeating them over and over to myself so I wouldn’t forget them. (Yes, I did have a notebook in my bag but I didn’t think the dentist would appreciate me stopping his work so I could get on with mine.)

I can’t truthfully say I was oblivious to what was happening in my mouth, but having something more important to concentrate on certainly lessened the anxiety. I was almost sorry when the treatment was over. Another two minutes and I’d have been writing THE END.

As soon as I was back in the real world of course, I couldn’t get out of there fast enough!

Do you have any practical uses for fiction?



Patsy said...

If someone annoys me, I put them in a story and either do something mean to them, or make them see the error of their ways. Being able to do that in fiction means I get less stressed out about them in real life.

Linda D said...

Great idea, Patsy. I'll be very careful not to annoy you!

beejay said...

Your idea to take your mind off these ordeals is good, and one I use myself, always telling myself that nothing lasts for ever. It does not always have the result that you had, so well done for remembering until you were outside again. Sometimes if I dream, I try to write it down as soon as I can, but often it's just not quite there any more.

Susan A Eames said...

That's a great strategy to deal with an unpleasant ordeal! I'll have to remember to try it next time I visit the dentist.

Jan Baynham said...

A great way to deal with a stressful situation, Linda, and you ended up with the sentence for what happened next in your story.