Friday, April 11, 2014

Creative License

I wish I had a nickel for every time someone told me to “write what you know.” I write crime thrillers and mysteries, but I don’t really know them, per se. I was never a cop. So I use my imagination, a little insight, and a bit of inspiration to invent stuff. That’s what fiction is. But when I wrote the sixth chapter of my upcoming novel, I needed a graveyard, a priest, and a church. Simple, right? Many churches have graveyards, and all churches have priests of a sort. So I started with the church. I drew on what I knew. I began to pull in memories of the church I went to as a child.

I grew up Catholic, and went to small church that was little more than the basement of a Catholic school. It was perfect for the book; small, poor, and exactly what I needed. But it didn't have a graveyard. So I created one. I exercised a little Creative License and turned the plat of land they reserved for a new church into a graveyard. Growing up, we knew a proper church would be erected because every Sunday, they held a second collection specifically for its construction. Something else I “knew.” So I wrote the chapter with the church, second collection and all, with the priest and with the graveyard. It all worked out fine.

Last week, I met my brother for a couple beers and a bunch of oysters at a Biker Bar. The oysters were free for just a tip to the guy wielding the oyster knife. It was a good deal. When Maggie and I left, I decided to show her where I grew up. It wasn't far from where we were, and neither was the church. So we drove there as well. Pulling in, I noticed a new building that wasn't there when I was a kid; some sort of assembly hall. But it wasn't a church. In the fifty years I’d been gone, the priests who mentored me in the ways of Christ were long dead, the church was never built, and I was disappointed to find that the land reserved for it now functioned as soccer field.

Church / Soccer Field / Graveyard
At the corner of the field is a plaque dedicated to the priest who was the pastor so many years ago. He died a Monsignor. I used all but the plaque in the novel because I “knew” them, and even brought that priest back to life, but  I employed Creative License to create the one thing I really needed to make the scene work.

The graveyard.

Until I went there, I had no idea the land had been used for a soccer field instead of a church. And even though I feel a little cheated out of a birthright, I guess the kids like it better that way. And let’s face it—I wouldn't be going to that church at this stage of my life anyway. But after applying a little Creative License, I have to admit—if it can't be a church, then I think I like it better as a graveyard.

Best Regards,

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