The Art of Exposing Yourself (But Not In a Way That Will Get You Arrested)
Get ready. I’m going to drop some big-time truth on you.
I’m probably not the first one to say this, and I’m sure I won’t be the last: real life is hard. Thinking back to my days in grade school—when I thought the worst that could happen was a bad grade or a detention—I realize that my naïveté was probably adorable to adults, but horribly misguided.
Along came adulthood, marriage, parenting—and I suddenly realized that screwing up even the most mundane task can have some pretty hefty consequences. Like money management, for instance.
When I was eight years old and I received a $2 allowance per week, the only result of poor money management—blowing my entire stash in one fell swoop on too many baseball cards, for instance—was having to wait another week to receive a fresh injection of cash. Alas, things aren’t quite so innocuous when you flub financial management in adulthood.
So, when I found myself in rather desperate financial straits, I relied on a primal instinct for survival. No, I didn’t hunt and forage for food (not that primal instinct). I lied about it. I made myself believe that I was protecting my family from the “stresses” of our financial situation, and hid it from their sight, making some pretty dubious decisions to cover the monetary gaps along the way.
As most stories go involving a highly complex web of deception, the carefully constructed illusion eventually disintegrated.
Believe me, it wasn’t pretty when it happened.
It wasn’t long after the big meltdown that I realized one of the ways I could therapeutically address my own proclivity towards deceit was to write about it. But how does a writer go about translating his or her own real life onto the page—fictionally speaking—and do so in a compelling way that simultaneously avoids offending very real acquaintances and family members?
When I started writing The Perdition of Zephyr Hopkins, the goal was simple: tell my story in a way that the real details were so obscured by the overly exaggerated circumstances that no one would be able to recognize me in the story—well, except for those closest to me.
So, where to start? Well, the easy part was the name. If I had chosen a name that even had my initials (JG) people would have immediately “caught on.” So, rather than try to be clever, I chose a name that was so far removed from my own that no one would mistake “Zephyr Hopkins” for “Jesse Greever.” (By the way, if you CAN find a connection, I’d love to hear it.)
But, like I said, the name was the easy part, right? I had to actually do something with the story itself. The single most important decision I made in the initial steps was to begin the story with a singular, pivotal moment that wasn’t even remotely related to my own experience. So, in the initial pages, Zephyr gets fired. In reality, I did not get fired, and as a result, every event that took place in the plot beyond that point had a much different “flavor” than my own personal experiences.
Once I had concocted my own “fork in the road” by changing the pivotal event, the challenge was then to make sure Zephyr’s story ran parallel to mine—far removed, yes, but parallel. As the story progressed, and Zephyr was forced into some pretty hairy situations, I would think back upon my own experiences and choose incidents that would dovetail into the story line. Basically by asking a simple question—namely, “how would Zephyr do this?”—I was able to infuse my own life story into the fictional life of my protagonist.
The result was rather surprising.
The Perdition of Zephyr Hopkins turned out to be a gut-wrenching tale that made even me squirm—not just because it was based loosely on my life, but because I could see how my own life could have spiraled frantically out of control like Zephyr’s. Fortunately, I didn’t turn to alcohol or sneak around on fake business trips or break into—
Oh, have I said too much? I guess you’re going to have to read the rest of it to find out just what depths Zephyr will sink to, and how on earth he climbs out of the bottomless pit of despair and deception.
JESSE S. GREEVER is the CEO of eLectio Publishing, a Christian publishing company. He is also the author of various works of fiction and full-length non-fiction books on the value of sacrificial generosity. He lives in Little Elm, Texas with his wife and two daughters.
You can connect with him on his website, www.jessegreever.com, as well as on Facebook and Twitter. His most recent release, The Perdition of Zephyr Hopkins, can be purchased at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and iTunes.