Wednesday, June 29, 2011

The Almost Authentic Jukebox

Also at the pizzeria (aka Deenos) last week was a real, working jukebox.

And I’m sorry, but obnoxious as it probably was, I had to put a quarter in and play a couple songs. Just because, well, that’s what you do when faced with a retro-vintage machine such as that.

To my dismay (as well as the dismay of a few of my Twitter followers) none of the songs available were by Boys II Men or Richard Marx.

*nods at gasps of horror*

I realize this is a travesty. But I did what I could and played an old Sheryl Crow and an old Martina McBride song. (You do what you must when faced with such challenges.) While those songs didn’t take me as far back as others might have, the over-loud, treble-heavy music reminded me of other times.

The problem was that the jukebox and the memories evoked by the music didn’t quite jive together. It felt just a little bit like I was pretending—which was totally true. I think this is one of the dangers of not fully fleshing-out our research, be it time, character, place, object, or any other number of elements in our creative ventures.

The facts don’t line up exactly and people will notice, even if they can’t put their finger on what they’re noticing. Like a painting that looks like it was meant to be centered, but didn’t quite get there. Or a person who looks like they’re almost having a good time, but not quite. Or a vase that looks like it was never broken, except for one small line of paint that doesn’t quite line up.

Those who are paying attention will always notice, the way I noticed the songs not quite going with the jukebox. I was okay with that because I know what a rarity it is to find a working jukebox in this century. But that isn’t always the case.

Theoretically, in what situations is it okay to pretend, and when must you be absolutely authentic?


Matthew MacNish said...

What about Bel Biv Devoe?

Jeff King said...

I am with you… those little touches make a story ring true even if the piece of work is total fiction.

As to your question: it’s ok to pretend, if the details don’t relate to a real world or experience. Or, in other words, if you’re not trying to connect the reader to a world they live in.

Angie said...

That's an eternal question for me. I hope I'm authentic most of the time. I try. But I have years of total pretending to overcome!