The probabilities that make a story


Truth is stranger than fiction, but it is because Fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities; Truth isn’t. – Mark Twain.

As a fiction writer, I read a lot of fiction. I also read a lot of current nonfiction material.

I noticed an article the other day titled, “Why so many rich kids come to enjoy the taste of healthier foods.” Because I live within the San Francisco Bay Area, and because I’m conscious of the vast amount of wealth concentrated here, I anticipated another story about how parents can make better food choices. After I read the article though, I found out that I was wrong.

The article was about food security. And I began to think about my own story.

When I was about eight, my stepfather made me sit at the kitchen table until the lima beans disappeared from my plate. I did try, but they made me gag. Then he tried to reason with me.

“There are children in the world who are starving and would love to have your beans. How would you feel if you didn’t have any food to eat?”

I wanted to say, let those children eat my dinner.


I just sat there with my head in my hands and stared at that pile of mushy green pillows. He finally got tired and left the room. I could hear the TV behind me down the hallway, and from time to time, he marched across the hardwood floor, stopped and retreated. The beans, like a fortress, remained on my plate. This dragged on until nine o’clock, an hour past my bedtime. That’s when he finally gave up. His defeat, as I look back now, must have been multidimensional. Chances are, the situation had called up a lot of difficult memories for my stepfather, but most of all issues of food security.

I call this my Hansel and Gretel memory.

My stepfather’s food history is shared by millions of Europeans during World War II. As a young teen, he drank water to lower the intensity of his hunger pains and ate cats and rodents on occasion to survive. In turn, his food security issues were passed on to me. The kitchen table became his soapbox where he would share his views on food deprivation each evening. lean your plate, eat what you’re given, be thankful you have something to eat and there are people starving in other parts of the world. In rage filled moments at that table, my stepfather would spit out his food. I can only imagine the psychology behind that type of behavior.


According to Twain’s quote, fiction sticks to possibilities. reality, or truth, can be viewed through probabilities. The probability that the children would suffer due to a lack of food security was high in Hansel and Gretel, by the Brothers Grimm. The writers took the situation to the next level as they envisioned the possibilities within the reality and transformed the hard, cold truth of hunger into a timeless piece. This reminds me of what I strive and hope to do as a writer.


© Jan Joe and Born in the year of the dog, 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Jan Joe and Born in the year of the dog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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