The Beautiful Truth with Susan Wingate


Here, where I sit this morning, the white noise of the den’s wall heater competes to block out a songbird’s melancholy call, one that starts out hopeful on a high note but then falls in three lonely steps. Or maybe something about me, about my mood only thinks the singing sounds sad.

You can never trust a narrator. Subjectivity always takes precedence over fact with fiction writers.

And! A crafty narrator will tell you one thing all the while leading you in the direction they want to lead, only to pull the rug out from under you when they switch it up, giving you the real kernel and reason for their writing.

I love that. Don’t you?

Storytelling can be such a joy. An idea can come out in stream of consciousness thinking albeit through some pretty constrained ideas developed in your outline. Or your ideas can flow easily with much thought and preparation given to each sentence. Either way, the path on which the reader steps their first foot should be one full of turns and surprises, hills and dips with the road awash with branches and boulders so that it would be impossible to know what might be ahead.

And beauty! There must exist some sense of reality:

That thin waxy shard of paper, the one skipping down the road on a blast of hot wind from the wheel of a honking yellow cab passing by, the one looking a lot like the color of a little girl’s ponytail ribbon and surely smelling like bubble gum, if one were ever brave enough to pick it up off the hot crumbled tarry street and press it to their nose… surely that waxy-looking scrap of paper would smell of that childhood chewy delight.

And attitude! The narrator, that usual liar we’ll find at the keyboard, must own some sense of attitude. How does the narrator feel on this particular day? Did she just realize her new beau will be marrying someone else in the next few months and she must coordinate the wedding plans? As is the premise in The Wedding Planner. If that’s the case, how does she feel? Is she angry? Yes! Spitefully so at first. Is she hurt? Yes, a little later when she realizes that the one guy in the world she is attracted to is in love with someone else. Does she feel defeated? You bet she does, to the point that she’s going to marry some other guy that she has absolutely zero attraction to but knows is a pretty nice fellow.

In each phase of her changing moods, our character will see things differently. In her angry mood, her dialogue AND narrative will be borne of sarcasm and annoyance. In her hurt mood, her dialogue and narrative will be borne of longing and loss. And, finally, in her defeated mood, she will seem apathetic and numb. But, in each of these phases the reader must get a sense of what she’s feeling through her actions and words.

We want to see her puff out her chest in defiance when she’s angry.

We want to see her crying when she’s sad.

And, we want to see her shoulders slump when she’s given up.

In any of these situations, the writers responsibility lies in how well we can paint the picture. How well we can see the scene for ourselves–smell that bubble gum, taste it, hear the cars, touch the wax of the paper, see the wind tossing the paper about–will be the beauty the readers will see and remember for years to come.

Now, excuse me while I push my body out of this infernal sofa, limp over to the thermostat and turn off the heater–the one making all that blasted noise, blocking out my somber bird’s mate as it calls back to him. So, that I can hear the beauty outside and perhaps, write about it.

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Award-winning bestselling author, SUSAN WINGATE, is co-host of the very popular talk radio show, DIALOGUE: BETWEEN THE LINES. Susan has written nine novels, two short story collections, a few plays, one screenplay and tons of poems. SACRIFICE AT SEA, her latest novel is slated for publication in the fall of 2011. Susan teaches six writing workshops that she offers around the country. Her sometimes dark and always R-rated amateur sleuth series entitled The Bobby’s Diner Series has received fabulous reviews and has won three finalist awards in national and international book competitions. Susan’s pseudonyms include, Myah Lin (literary fiction) and JJ Adams (noir mystery).

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