When Fiction Won’t Let You Lie to Yourself

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Why do we incorporate our personal lives into works of fiction? And how do we know when to stop?

In a post for the New York Times‘s “Draft” series, “about the art and craft of writing,” Rumpus columnist Peter Orner recalls a long-ago event that his psyche can’t shake: as a child, he stole a pair of nice gloves from his father.

He’s tried for years to let his brain turn the troubling memory from a grain of sand to a pearl by reimagining it as fiction, but so far, it just stays sand:

This is where the truth of this always derails the fiction. I can’t give the gloves back, in fiction or in this thing we call reality. If I did, I’d have to confront something I’ve known all along but have never wanted to express, even to myself alone.


Lauren O'Neal is an MFA student at San Francisco State University. Her writing has appeared in publications like Slate, The New Inquiry, and The Hairpin. You can follow her on Twitter at @laureneoneal. More from this author →