I got a big compliment the other day. A friend, I’ll call her Mothra, had just handed back my latest manuscript—working title: Perfect Little Worlds—after marking it up with various punctuation and line edits. I like to think of her work as helping me sniff out what I call “my stupid moments.” You know, typing peeked when I mean peaked, changing the hair color of a minor character, leaving out the odd word here and there. I never send out a manuscript without at least a few other sets of eyes looking it over. Anything I can do to make the manuscript ring, I’m all for it.
Mothra is my detail queen. By the time she gets a manuscript, I’ve already tackled the notes from my first set of readers, so, presumably, it’s in pretty good shape story-wise, but it takes a certain personality, a certain talent, to spot the small stuff. I pay Mothra, but not nearly enough, so I always worry that I’m taking advantage of her. She says, “Clifford, chill! I enjoy doing it. And it gives me something to do when I’m stuck on a set with nothing to do.” Mothra does lots of extra work in the movies.
This most recent round, however, Mothra wasn’t working on a movie and had to set time aside from her other career as a much-sought-after masseuse, so I really felt beholden. “Clifford,” she said. “Get off the floor! Quit prostrating at my feet! Your novel saved me!” When I asked what she meant, she explained that the tale I’d woven so captivated her that, for hours on end, she was able to forget all about the devastating presidential election results. “And that’s saying a lot!” she said.
Her words spoke to a question that rattles around inside me every time I sit down to write a piece of fiction: Why am I doing this? What possible purpose could this serve? I suppose, at some time or other, every fiction writer wonders if it isn’t just a little strange to, not only fabricate people, but to put these fabricated people into fabricated cars, in fabricated houses, facing fabricated situations, as if the writer were merely elevating a childhood fascination with dolls.
So when Mothra said my novel had “saved” her, well, it made me feel like writing fiction important, it has the ability to offer refuge in troubled times.