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Literary Escapism

It’s fine. Really. I don’t judge anyone who reads to escape the crap they may be dealing with in life. When I was younger, I did that. It was a survival tactic. Oftentimes, it was the only way I could keep going.

My vice growing up was the Trixie Belden series.

Rebuilding my collection that was lost many moves ago.

The mysteries she and her pals managed to solve every single time gave me hope. It was oddly comforting to know that, for some (fictional) people at least, things turned out well. If it worked out for them, maybe, just maybe it could work out for me someday too.

Eventually, I got to a place in life where I had more control over my environment. I learned to set boundaries. I surrounded myself with positive people, explored various hobbies, set goals for myself, and really carved out a place in the world for myself.

And, I realized something.

No matter how great life is, bad things still happen. There is no escaping it.

While I branched out in my reading interests and began to explore romance novels, chick lit, and John Grisham’s titles (The Firm is my favorite!) I found myself becoming frustrated with the majority of what I read. The HEA (happily ever after) books didn’t do it for me with the characters whose lives always went their way.

Those characters had the perfect hair, the perfect clothes, and the best jobs. Their relationships were filled with high-end dining and children who always behaved. If something did go awry it was a minor blip on the radar of their lives that was easily remedied by the last page.

The whole concept rubbed me the wrong way.

When we had money problems they weren’t solved by a handsome business man that came along and handed me a corner office with a view. We experienced bankruptcy.

That time our car’s transmission blew out (while we were driving) wasn’t solved with someone gifting us a brand new vehicle. We scrounged for weeks and eventually bought a used car…after sharing our sad money problems and basically begging the seller to take the only money we had – a paltry sum of $900.00.

When the construction industry dried up in the town we lived in, we didn’t find out we were in the will of someone wealthy and recently deceased. Instead, we filed for food stamps (they denied us), sold everything we owned to make it another month, and I took a minimum wage job working 2nd shift at a local grocery store. That 10% employee discount on groceries was nice.

Heartache, divorce, abuse, poverty, difficult relationships, tears, confusion, sexism, dead-end jobs, death, loss, conflict, racism — the list is endless.

These were the things going on in the story of my life. And, if we’re being honest, aren’t these things going on in the lives of the people around us?

Life is…life. It’s gritty and raw and painful.

Sure, there are happy, peaceful, joyful moments. Those moments are amazing and inspire hope and I have a litany of those in my life story for which I’m incredibly grateful.

It’s a balance. Occasionally, it’s an imbalance with more pain than joy.

Life can be ugly.

I’ve found that the stories I write have more of that balance, and oftentimes, that imbalance. Not because I go into the process with the intention of bumming out readers, but because I can’t write the fairy tale version of things. That’s not what I relate to. The more I write, the more I ask myself this question.

What about everyone else that can relate to these ordinary heroes?

The struggling waiter; the single mom; the misfit kid; the therapy client.

Morris said it best in Shooting Sdax.

“See?” He turned her hand over, palm up. Faint green marks were visible against her pink flesh. “Fake like a fairy tale. Unfortunately, there’s no cure for fake, Starr. No coping skills or therapy techniques. Fake is fake as f*ck.”

Shooting Sdax by V. Jolene Miller
published 2019
p. 157

And that’s why I write the stories I do. Anything else feels fake to me.

Oh, I know some people have those fairy tale type lives, and that’s fine. I don’t feel inferior or less than or disadvantaged. And I enjoy reading the occasional chick lit book. It’s just not what drives my storytelling.

There are ordinary heroes out there whose stories might go untold & that’s a wrong I intend to right.

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What kind of books do you enjoy reading? Has your reading taste changed over the years? Who are some of your favorite characters, and why?

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