Flirting with Fiction

Mind you, I confess I’m just flirting. I am not at all sure I want a permanent relationship with these characters in my head who say they will be able to work for me.

They tell me tentatively that they hear the story that brings together all of the fragments of memory and hope, curiosity and biology-watching that need a voice other and more than this scratchpad of morning pages.

I have no experience with fiction. This tends not to be a deterrent, fools rushing in, etc etc. I have learned how to learn. I know that, once my mind is made up (it isn’t yet) and the goal is clearly before me, I’ll usually make enough progress in the direction du jour to know if even more effort will produce more success, or only more frustration.

Hence, I’m a dabbler of much, and master of not so much. Even so, I like the a la carte sampling of life that is possible from the comfort of my ergonomic office chair, and fiction is currently being featured on the menu.

The few persistent visitors here and readers of my books know that I place much of my writing emphasis in exploration of relationships–the broken ones that separate us from each other and the earth, and the renewed ones that offer hope of bringing our species back into communion and health. I speak often about the legacy we leave for future generations that is marred by our inattention, inaction, indifference and ignorance.

So my novel (in theory) will be the story of planetary challenges, personal courage and hope for a future worth living. It will span some 80 years, starting in 1950, centered around the lives of two childhood friends who as adults confront dangerous boundaries in economy and environment  in very different ways. One has entered science and settles in a small rural farming community. The other went the corporate route and holds growth and profit in reverence from his fortress home in suburbia.

When local and global dysfunction comes, and there will be several “perfect storms” of break-down, the two friends resume their once-frequent and from-the-gut correspondence, eventually living as neighbors in a resilient mountain community, defending the future against a common enemy (and it are us) and leaving in the end a legacy of hope for their great grandchildren who inherit the Anthropocene.

Or something like that. Perhaps more, from time to time. I have homework.

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Fred First holds masters degrees in Vertebrate Zoology and physical therapy, and has been a biology teacher and physical therapist by profession. He moved to southwest Virginia in 1975 and to Floyd County in 1997. He maintains a daily photo-blog, broadcasts essays on the Roanoke NPR station, and contributes regular columns for the Floyd Press and Roanoke's Star Sentinel. His two non-fiction books, Slow Road Home and his recent What We Hold in Our Hands, celebrate the riches that we possess in our families and communities, our natural bounty, social capital and Appalachian cultures old and new. He has served on the Jacksonville Center Board of Directors and is newly active in the Sustain Floyd organization. He lives in northeastern Floyd County on the headwaters of the Roanoke River.

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  1. I like the concept very much. A good editor and lots of work may bring it to fruition. I believe it is surely worth a good try!! It sounds like a lot of fun to me for one who loves to write and writes as well as you do already. And I am sure the needed new skills that fiction will require will be achievable. Go for it, Fred.

  2. Sounds like a real project to me, Fred. Mmmmmmm …. boy!!! You couldn’t pick two more opposing philosophies: capitalism and what the alter native community in Floyd stands for. Whew!

  3. Hey Fred- I’ve been out and about for a while. 93 degrees, but feels like 103, here. So I’ve strapped myself to my seat under the a/c duct…

    Anyhoo… fiction. How’s the research going? I’ve tried writing fiction several times. Only short stories. Still haven’t met a set of characters whom I’d want to spend novel time with. But it sounds like you’ve got the makings for a savory stew. Keep us posted. 😉