What can we writers learn from lizards, lift from birds? In quickness is truth. The faster you blurt, the more swiftly you write, the more honest you are.
Author of Fahrenheit 451, Illustrated Man, Something Wicked This Way Comes, The Martian Chronicles, and dozens more, as well as hundreds of short stories.
There are numerous writing genres: memoir, fiction, nonfiction, essay, flash fiction, only to name a few. Creative nonfiction is one that often confuses writers. Googling definitions comes up with one rule: it must be factually accurate, but it can be told using a literary style that creates more interesting reading.
My story is about 95% truthful. The remaining 5% is fudged a little. The book titles were lost long ago. That’s one example. One small part is made up but indicative of common interactions between the two main characters.
Does that mean it’s fiction or creative nonfiction? Technically, it’s fiction. But between you and me, most of it happened just like I wrote it.
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A Halloween Tradition
The small, short-stemmed, green and yellow pumpkin sat on the woman’s windowsill, bringing memories of the annual pumpkin carving event between her father and her daughter, held so many times, so many years ago.
Grandpa always bought a medium-sized orange one, which sat waiting on his brown dining room table until his granddaughter arrived. With freshly washed hands, they took turns sketching carving ideas onto its outside skin, drawings rarely followed when the cutting began. If he attempted something menacing, her young voice would insist:
“No, Grandpa. Not scary.”
She never liked scary, not E.T. from the children’s movie others loved, or when falling asleep hearing disturbing music from crime shows mom watched on television across the hallway.
“Turn it off Mommy. No. I can hear it.”
So, with Grandpa the choices were a large-toothed smile or a minimalist frown.
Usually, she chose happy.
The woman’s thoughts moved to the time her parents came to visit in London. Grandma brought books to read together on the well-used pink couch: The Halloween Performance and Halloween Treats. But with Grandpa, the two of them stopped to look at pumpkins at the small produce stand on the busy High Street corner two blocks from her home.
“We want a pumkin’’ his granddaughter told the middle-aged woman, the same one she and her mother spoke to every day after school when they stopped to pick up fresh vegetables for dinner. “Grandpa and I are making a Jack-o-Lantern,” she said with pride.
There were few choices, but they picked the biggest orange one. Grandpa carried it under one arm to their small one bedroom apartment and placed it on the rickety Formica table in the tiny kitchen. She found the largest knife in the utensil drawer so Grandpa could cut off the top. They both took out the inside slush, then Grandpa began carving the teeth, based on her directions.
“Grandpa, you’re doing it wrong,” she said whenever he veered from her wishes. He stopped to say:
“What?” still holding the knife in his hand.
She’d correct him, he’d put on his dismayed look, then they’d start again.
They worked side-by-side, the large white man with freckles and a bald head, next to the brown-skinned four-year-old with tight curls in a large puff balls on top of her head, until the project was complete and the inside candle was lit.
This time of year came alive with memories, and all it took was a small pumpkin in front of her window. The woman missed them both, one deceased and the other living her own life far away, but the remembrances kept them close to her heart.
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