What do we mean when we say that life is stranger than fiction. We mean that if I were to put the specific real life event into a book the reader would have a difficult time believing that the event could happen. The "stranger than" event would intrude into the willing suspension of disbelief and shatter the fourth wall. Sometimes the sense of disbelief comes from the converging of too many coincidences. Sometimes that sense is because the events seem so unusual to be true.
I've written before about the picture at the top of the post. The apparently homeless guy with a solar panels, a cell phone and a computer out protesting in front of an embassy in Washington, D.C. His situation stretches the bounds of what we're willing to accept as "real." I could write a whole thesis on why this is the case, but then this would be a very different type of blog.
Let me share my "stranger than" moment from last week.
The boys and I were driving home on Friday when we passed an airplane on the highway. Not flying above it. But on it. Think about that for a moment before scrolling down to the picture.
Apparently, someone had taken the plane apart (presumable at rivet points) so it could fit on the trailer. The wings were strapped to the outer panels of the trailer. Unfortunately, we didn't stay close enough to it in the traffic for me to do all of the mental gymnastics to envision the reconstructed plane. I still think all the parts weren't on the trailer although the landing gear could have still been inside the tail section of the truck.
Stranger than fiction.
For my second "stranger" moment this week I was shopping at a high end grocery store. Now this is one of those places where you will spend $200 a week for basic staples. On one of the shelves near the check out was a magazine with the following cover title: "Making Do With Less." Making do with less? The store sells $1,000 bottles of wine for the love of Pete. Geez. Let's put it this way.., if you were in that store shopping you weren't making do with less. Seeing the article was just surreal.
"Stranger than fiction" moments can work in stories but a lot of groundwork is needed to make these very real moments seem "real." in the fiction context.
In the first case, the man with the solar panels, I'd have to develop some fairly detailed backstory that would have to be conveyed to the reader to explain the apparent contradiction between being homeless and having the disposable income to buy several solar panels, a computer, cell phone and cell phone/ internet plan. If I could convince you he could be real than I'd have a fairly amazing character to work with for my story.
I think I'd have to show you the plane being taken apart and loaded by someone with the knowledge to do so without harming it before you'd buy into the idea that a plane could be transported on a boat trailer. After all, I was watching it drive down the highway and still did a double take.
Stranger than fiction moments give us an opportunity to add depth to our story and address some of the odder things that happen in our life. So, I'm actively trying to figure out how I can insert these moments into my story. I think I have a role for my solar powered friend in my current WIP, Schrödinger Effect. It's going to take me a bit to figure out what to do with the plane. Still, it will be SO worth it.
Stay tuned and I'll let you know how the journey goes.