By the time you read this post many of you may have already completed the first entry in your 2012 fake journal. Congratulations! Keep going.
For those of you who haven't started yet, jump in. You don't have to journal every day (though it is most helpful to the process of discovery if you do), so sitting on the fence has not kept you out of the running yet.
If you would like to go public with your fake journal please read the 2012 Contest Rules here. You'll also see a photo of the prize in that post.
Every year I make buttons for this event. The 2012 button is now here and you can see it at the top of the right-hand column of this blog. It's a little one-eyed chihuahua with the slogan "Details Matter."
If you are participating this year I'd like to you take a moment to think about that slogan. The best fake anything is convincing because of the details it contains. But a pile of details is also the easiest way to spot a fake.
Details need to be artfully integrated into the whole. They need to arise naturally in the course of events.
In your fake journal you are working in the first person—you are the writer. To suddenly interject details that your writer would take for granted and not need to note in the normal course of his or her life will bring an air of falseness to your fake journal. (Of course if your journal's author has a brain disfunction then your approach is going to be different, perhaps.)
In 2009 my character was going to be dealing with a lot of new people and they were arranged in groups so she took a moment to write down their names and relationships on an early page of that journal. (It was really helpful to me and I wanted that in the journal so that 10 years from now I'd understand what was going on.) But if she had not just arrived in this place it would not have been normal for her to have done that. I would have had to discover a more natural way to include that information.
In other posts containing tips on how to create your fake journal I recommend beginning in medias res—just jumping in. Today when I work in my real journal I'm not going to spend 30 minutes writing a backstory of my life and habits. I'm going to jump right in and start journaling my life as it is this minute. Your character needs to do the same thing. If there is backstory that needs to be explored I have to find a way to insert that into the pages in a natural way, so that it gradually unfolds.
This is true even if your character is just starting a trip for instance. He isn't going to spew out backstory bits of information, he's just going to sit in the airport lounge and sketch and comment on the people around him. He may, if he's so inclined and it's within his character, start writing notes about things he forgot, or bemoan the fact that he already misses his dog Tiny and doesn't know how he'll cope with being away for 4 weeks. But he won't just come out and say those things—there's a difference. Part of the fact that details matter is that how they are released also matters.
This is a crucial part of doing a fake journal—and it is also one of the aspects that is the most fun.
If working with details like this is new to you I recommend that you take a moment to write out a backstory page or two about your character OUTSIDE of your fake journal. Put in the names of the people he or she normally deals with and what relationship they have to the character—for instance "Bill: the spouse." You don't want her to suddenly be sleeping with Jim on page 6 of your journal, unless of course that's what her character is doing.
All of these notes on backstory and character need to be outside of your fake journal because they are not really part of that journal. You can keep them in a little notebook or on loose slips of paper that you tuck into the back pocket of your fake journal so that you have it all together. But notes like that would not be anything the author of your fake journal would ever make in the journal. The journal is also an "artifact"—keep that in mind.
It is also completely fine to just jump in without any backstory and let the page entries over the month explain the character to you.
But again, there won't be a spewing of unnatural notes on the pages.
You might even find out that at the end of the process you learn a lot about what your character thinks of one or two people and not much about the character. (Actually you've just learned a lot about the character because of how he views others, but, well you get the idea.)
If you really want some concrete fact about your character to appear in your journal you're going to have to come up with a way to get it there. Perhaps the easiest way is to have him either take offense at or be pleased with something someone did or said to him. For instance he might write, "I was totally unprepared for Mary's screaming fit when I explained my reasons for firing her. Given the circumstances I think my comment on her review that she was unstable was justified." Or "I was touched by Mary's gift of a pie. Her note telling me that my kindness to her family at this time was deeply appreciated meant a lot." Or you can top that by including Mary's note as ephemera—and have fun writing in a different hand!
That's all pretty rudimentary but I think you can see what I'm getting at.
Embrace the details of your fake journal author's life. What he sees and how he sees it will be important, not just in creating a successful fake, but in helping you stretch your own observational powers.
Have a great 2012 IFJM. I look forward to hearing from you.
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