I have this ending that I wrote a good fifteen years ago. The ending is so much better than the short story that it’s attached to I almost believe that it was written by someone else. And for years, I’ve been trying to figure out how to to rescue it.
It’s a universal ending. It’s about a guy who realizes that the girl he’s been sleeping with is more than that. The writing is delicate and strikes just the right note of sentimentality. I’ve gotten compliments on this ending, despite the festering wound that was the 20 odd pages that proceeded it.
Recently, I found myself writing a short story that was based upon the life I was living fifteen years ago. And, not surprisingly, it matched up perfectly to the ending. I just finished the first draft, or at least the first draft that I’m willing to pass along to my editor.
My editor is my wife, Nicole. And that’s where it gets weird for me.
Because I didn’t know Nicole fifteen years ago, and this new story is ostensibly a love story about a girl who isn’t my wife. And it’s written in the first person. And a lot of what happens is lifted directly from my life.
I don’t think I’ve given Nicole such a story in a long, long time. I gave her “Unrequited” when we started dating and she liked it a lot. I gave it to her friends and they all assumed she was who I based the main character on, even though I wrote it years before I met her.
I’ve written a few things here and there that featured women (seriously, I basically write love stories), but they were always stand ins for Nicole. I mean, they were pretty obvious stand ins for Nicole.
Over the last few years, it hasn’t even been an issue. I wrote a non-fiction book that is just chock full of Nicole. I wrote a YA book that is clearly not about me in any way, shape, or form. So it’s been some time since I gave Nicole a story to read that blurred that line between fiction and reality.
Here’s the thing: if you’re going to write a love story in the first person, you need to believe that the narrator is in love, or at least has the potential for that. And the narrator in this story is potentially in love with a woman who is not my wife. Then again, this is a story that takes place before I met her.
Nicole has no problems with this. But I feel weird giving it to her.
This is the problem with my obsession with metafiction: no one else cares. Nicole is going to read this as a story that takes place during a time before I met her, narrated by a guy who sounds an awful lot like me, but clearly isn’t because, hey, look at that, I did not marry this fictional character. And while I would be unable to separate my feelings while reviewing such a story, Nicole will do just fine.
For me, it’s a big deal. My life and my fictional life are so intertwined that it sometimes gets tricky, or at least feels messy.
But I suppose this is why I’m a writer and not married to one.