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How to Turn True Events into Fiction.



We often hear that there is nothing new under the sun. If that's true, then how are we supposed to write fiction?


Take ordinary events and use them to your advantage. Here's an example. This is a short story that I published in the San Diego Writers Monthly. At the end of the story, you will find the origin of the story.

 

I Killed Santa’s Reindeer


Grown-ups have no sense of humor. If they did, I wouldn’t be sitting here in lunch detention. So far, I’ve served two months. Just one more to go.


Here comes the assistant principal to stand guard over me. They say she has a glass eye. The way she looks at me every day, I expect her to jerk it from its socket and throw it at me. I don’t deserve this. I didn’t commit murder.


Well, I did kill Santa’s reindeer, but I swear I didn’t mean to.


It all started when some genius decided we fifth graders would help the little kids write letters to Santa. So, one day we visited the kindergarten classes. I was assigned to a little girl with a wish list that would fill the phone book. I was supposed to help her write a letter to Santa Claus. But she went on and on and on. My hand started to cramp.


As soon as we got back to our own classroom, we wrote a letter from Santa to our little pal in kindergarten.


My hand was still aching, so naturally my reply was short and to the point. This is what I wrote:


Dear Little Girl with the Long Wish List:


Due to technical difficulties Santa can’t deliver any presents this year. All his reindeer died. His elves went on strike. There was a blizzard at the North Pole, so we’re snowed in until spring.


Merry Christmas,

The Head Elf


I stuck my letter in an envelope, sealed it, and wrote the little girl’s name on it. I even decorated it with drawings of Christmas trees. My teacher collected our work and sent it on to kindergarten.


I don’t know why I did it. But I’ve thought about it lots of times and if I had it to do over, I’d do it again.


Lunch detention will be over just before Easter.


Hmm . . . Easter. I wonder if my class will help the little kids write letters to the Easter Bunny.

 

This is a true story. One day, my kids came home from the local elementary school, and they were laughing their heads off. "What's so funny?" I asked. They told me about a student who was in trouble and what he had done. And voila! "I Killed Santa's Reindeer."


Truth is stranger than fiction, as the old saying goes. You don't have to make it up when a good story falls into your lap.


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