Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Truth is Stranger Than Fiction

I scan the headlines of quite a few newspapers online and often I’m struck by how unbelievable many of these stories are. They’re true - just unbelievable.

No - I’m not talking about Charlie Sheen! There’s quite enough of that.

A recent story in my own town concerned a 48-year-old man who for the past two and a half years has been in an online relationship with a woman who didn’t exist. How was this revealed? Well, the alleged woman claimed to have been kidnapped and asked for more money. The man went to the police who after a fairly easy internet search found that the picture of the alleged woman was from a sample driver’s license for the state of Florida. The man was devastated to find out that she didn’t really exist but I suspect that the more than $200,000.00 he sent whomever it was at least added fuel to the fire of his anguish.

Then there’s the woman who in her early fifties has cashed in her life savings, her retirement accounts, sold her house and moved to a different state following a guy she just met who has promised her the world as long as she cashed everything in so they could start a new life together. She resists all attempts from her children and her siblings to make sure she’s okay- in fact she’s down right hostile when they ask how she’s doing now that she’s followed this guy to another state.

As writers we try to create believable characters that the reader can relate to but in real life, the people - or the characters - described above make you want to shake them until they come to their senses.

I mean, really, who does this stuff? Well, more people than you can possibly imagine.

One common element, despite gender or race, or even socioeconomic status seems to be age. Most of these bizarre and unbelievable behaviors tend to happen when someone is in their late forties into the mid-fifties. We often dismiss this as a mid-life crisis but a psychological perspective indicates that it may be in response to childhood trauma of some sort.

Whatever the reason is, writers often have to create characters more believable than real people. Truth really is stranger than fiction.

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