Does everyone re-imagine their past or is it just writers?

There are moments in everyone’s past that didn’t go well. Sometimes those moments grow out of our own mistakes and sometimes they seem like the so-called “cruel hand of fate” stirring perfect moments into swill.

Writers are used to saying, “What if.” So it feels completely natural to me when I happen to think of a bad moment out of the past to change it into a good moment. As if that moment is part of a novel, it’s as though I’ve changed my mind and I’m going to allow the protagonist to be happy rather than seeing them broken by criminals and car accidents and storms.

I like my re-imagings about such things so much, that they seem more real than what really happened. Does everyone do this, or is it just writers?

People say writers play God by moving their characters around like pieces on a chessboard. That’s not really true because my characters are more in control of their own destiny in my novels than I am. If a character wants to jump off a cliff, there’s little I can do to stop it.

Maybe a lot of us jumped off a lot of cliffs in our past and now we’re stuck with the memories of moments that didn’t go well–along with those that did go well. We can choose, I think, which group of moments defines us and what kind of attitude and belief system we project out into the world. Yet, playing let’s pretend is always tempting, like having Rhett tell Scarlett, “Actually, my dear, I do give a damn.”

So, too, I think back and pretend I didn’t hurt the people I hurt and that the people who hurt me changed their minds before they did it. To the extent that perception is reality, maybe our little games of let’s pretend alter the past in ways beyond our ken.

At any rate, that’s how writers see the world. I hope we’re not alone in this respect.


I’m sure you’re not surprised that I’m the author of magical realism and contemporary fantasy novels and short stories.


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