|Photo from Vernon Dahmer, Jr.|
My father knew Mr. Dahmer. He had repaired his television (or could have been a radio) about a year before. I rode with my father out to deliver that TV to the Dahmer home, and sat in the truck while he went in the colorful Dahmer store (which was next door to their home, I think) to collect from Vernon Dahmer. Several light-skinned boys sat on the porch of the store. I almost got out of the truck to purchase a soft drink, solely on the influence of the Barq’s Root Beer sign on the front of the store, when I saw my father coming out the door.
More about this story here: Justice is done.
This story is only one of the stories of my growing up years. We were not middle class America, but we did not know that we weren’t. We were too busy existing day to day. These and many other stories are still bumping around in my head. I am trying as fast as I can to write them down so I won’t forget them.
One such story I have turned into fiction. And that story is now a 300 page novel manuscript based in part on the fascinating history of the Dahmer family. I’ve incorporated countless true events in my fiction stories. And you do not always have to base a story on a traumatic event. The best fiction I’ve read lately are every-day event-type stories, like meeting someone for coffee, and the dialogue that takes place where a secret is revealed or a person has a sudden awareness. I’m certain these stories are based on the writers’ true life events, or things he/she has heard or read about.
I recently heard a story about a writer talking to an agent about a fiction manuscript that was not finished, and that he was struggling with completing the novel, but he just couldn’t get an ending. The Agent told the writer to put the entire project aside, and “to write the story he really wanted to tell.” I don’t know who the writer was, but according to the teller of the tale the writer began to write creative non-fiction stories about his life and his world was changed forever. But I thought this to be very powerful advice. What draws us to write fiction, when the truths of our own lives are far more interesting?