David Sedaris is one of those people who could make a to-do list funny, interesting, and sometimes even insightful and transformative. I am definitely a fan.
He often talks about cannibalizing his own life for his writing. For example, one essay in the fabulous Me Talk Pretty One Day centers around his compulsion to share a personal story that his sister forbids him from telling. (As he points out, it’s not like she’s doing anything with it.)
I doubt that fiction authors are any different from essayists. I’m always incorporating bits of my life or the lives of others into my writing, sometimes deliberately, but often unconsciously.
Instead of experience cannibals, I like to think of writers as opportunistic magpies, grabbing spare shiny bits (though often only shiny to us) from the world around us and making them into something new.
In that vein, I thought I’d share some Magpie Moments, things that I snagged from real life and repurposed into fiction.
I will add something new to the series every week until the next Sydney Brennan release.
And SPOILER ALERT: you probably don’t want to read these if you haven’t read Back to Lazarus yet.
Let’s start at the beginning, shall we?
“On some level, I always associate suicides with Superman.”The opening sentence of Chapter One, Back to Lazarus
Back to Lazarus opens with Sydney Brennan sharing that her grandmother had told Sydney and her brother that the actor who played Superman in the original TV series had lost touch with reality. He had jumped off a building and died by suicide.
So far as I can tell, that story is completely untrue, but the rumor did exist.
In fact, my own grandmother told me that story when I was a child.
Begin psychoanalysis now.
[Note: I have gotten some pushback on using this story in the book. You can read more about why I kept it in and the dangers of pushing reader buttons in How Factual Do You Want Your Fiction?]