No, I don’t have laryngytis. I found my voice in a story, though it certainly doesn’t sound like me.
I’m working on a non-fiction story about a Garrett County coal-mining town. I wrote about it years ago for my column in the Cumberland Times-News. Since then, the story has stayed in my mind. I knew there was more to tell, but I just didn’t have the sources that would help me put it together.
Last summer, I was still debating whether I should tell this story as non-fiction or fiction. Fiction would allow me to get more into the lives of the people involved with the story and use more dialogue, but the story is so incredible, I kept thinking that unless it is told as non-fiction, no one would believe that it could happen.
So I set out to write a non-fiction book. I put together the outline, struggling with where to start the story. Once decided, I started out writing and the first few chapters came out pretty easily.
Then an odd thing happened.
One night, I started writing a passage that did not fit into the story where I was writing it. Instead of deleting it, I kept writing. The language was more casual than I had been using so far, but when I re-read what I had written, I realized it would serve as a perfect opening. It also allowed me to include information in the story that I wouldn’t have been able to do if I had followed my outline.
More interesting to me was the approach I had taken. The voice was that of the story’s narrator, but not the author. So now I’ve got a fictional character in my non-fiction book. He’s not putting himself into the story so that the story remains non-fiction, but it’s being told by unnamed fictional person.
If it’s confusing to you, imagine how it is for me. But it works. I’ll put up the opening passage in a few days and you can tell me what you think. Given how this story has made some sharp turns, I wonder if the storyteller will make it to the final draft. If not, I’m sure I’ll learn something that I need to in order to tell this story properly before he gets cut.