Why Truth Really is Stranger than Fiction, Or How I Won a Zombie-Ninja Fight

See? Zombie ninjas do exist.

When I remember the run that I went on yesterday afternoon, I can still feel the burn of snow as it blows like a sheet of sandpaper in my face and the heart-pounding heave of my heart as  it feels like it might just give up at any second.  I remember the run taking forever, because it totally did.  There were so many streets that we ran down that by the end, when I hobbled up the stone path to my front door and said “Screw this.  Let’s make new New Year’s resolutions to get all fat and lazy,” Matt laughed at me and said “It’s only been twenty minutes.”

Okay, so I might have remembered the run a little differently.

Memory is a funny thing. Prior to the run of doom, I was listening to a podcast from Radiolab.org on memory and imagination.  Apparently, neuroscientists have discovered that the two are closely linked in the brain so that every time we recall a memory it is being altered by the part in our brain that operates the imagination–meaning all of your memories are totally wrong.  Or at least kind of messed up.

As  a fiction writer, this makes for some interesting writing.  It’s always my goal to try and reach those deep inner truths that make scenes come alive, but this notion that our memories are always being re-remembered from an imaginative perspective based on our current situation makes for some difficult discoveries in the way of truth.  How can you find truth when the truth that you remember is kind of fiction?

Perhaps, when whoever said “truth is stranger than fiction,” what they really meant was “our memories are all kind of screwy anyway, so let’s just call it some damn good fiction and leave it at that.”

Anyway.  I’ve decided to take this whole memory-and-imagination-are-kind-of-the-same-thing-thing to mean that when I write my memoir I can totally lie and say that I was in a huge ninja fight with all sorts of zombies and ninjas instead of just having had surgery.  True story.

On a more realistic note (if one can even claim that this exists on the topic), I’m starting to think that writing with truth means writing the true feelings that emerge out of a situation and not necessarily the details that really happened.

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