The best part about authenticity is its reward.
This week we've been using Jen and Kristen's Great Indian Adventure (Part III) as an analogy for authenticity. So far we've--barely--made it to the restaurant and ordered our food. The mood is set, save for the fact that the restaurant is WAY too quiet. If it were India, everyone would be yelling.
The first taste of our appetizer calmed any fears I had. It was so hot I downed an entire glass of water. And when my heavenly chicken curry finally came, I drank another gallon. It was so good! Instantly, I was on the other side of the world, eating with my fingers and sitting on the cold marble floor, asking myself how I could live without spice. The garlic naan was exactly what I'd dreamed of since August.
We found our portal to India.
After our meal, I order chai, which is the Hindi word for "tea". Chai is tricky because I haven't found a place in America that does it right. Most places call it "Chai tea" on their menus, which is a clear sign that it's not authentic--because they are calling it "tea tea". I figured this place was safe. So I placed my order.
This is not what I received. I did receive chai, just not the kind in the picture above.
I just had to laugh, though. The truth is that I've never been to a restaurant in India where everyone at the table got exactly what they ordered (food and drink). Something was always mixed up. If you ordered Coca-Cola, they'd bring an off brand that tasted nothing like it. If you sent it back and asked for Coca-Cola again, you might get "lucky" and score some Pepsi (if you prefer Coke over Pepsi like I do, it's still a sacrifice). Sometimes you don't get your meal at all. That's just India. So ordering something and receiving something different was the most "Indian" thing that could happen to me. It was most definitely authentic.
So far, we've talked about research and committment to Story as key ingredients for authenticity in our writing. Today we're going to look at something we discussed a few weeks ago--voice.
We need to know our characters, our setting, details, and plots. We need to do the research or else someone will know something is missing. We need to be fully committed to telling our stories, no matter the pain and fear we might experience. Most of all, we need to be true to ourselves. We need to know who we are, how we write, and where we shine. I'll never write horror. Mysteries would even be a stretch for me, as much as I enjoy reading them. And while my stories have romance, I don't know if I'll ever write a novel in that genre--even though I read them. I know where I fit now. Changing genres wouldn't feel authentic to me or to anyone else.
If the chicken curry hadn't been full of spicy fun or if the garlic naan had fallen flat, I would have been so disappointed. It would have been a while before I looked for another Indian restaurant, because I wouldn't want to risk it again. Our spice is our syntax, our rhythm, our subtle art--the inflections that are completely our own. It's what keep readers coming back, what hooks the agent from the first page of our sample pages. It's what makes us unforgettable.
When we write fully researched, fully committed, and fully like ourselves, we find authenticity. It's hard fought and takes a lot of time, but it will make all the difference!
Below is a picture of Jen and I, taken by her husband, photographer Jon Chandler of Jon Chandler Photography. Authentic Indian Adventure: Check! We'll definitely come back!
See y'all Monday!
***Images found at Google Images***
5 hours ago