All writers have a process that allows them to create. However, the art of "Writing" is often mistaken for that "Process." Hopefully this blog explains the difference, and inspires people to develop their crafts, become writers, or just keep on writing.

Friday, March 8, 2024

Writing Real Fiction

I know a number of writers who have decided ahead of time that they can't write fiction. They offer plenty of reasons: "I'm not that creative," "I don't like making up stories," or "The truth is usually more interesting anyway." Okay, fair enough. I don't force people to write anything they don't want to, but I do offer this one question in response: "What makes something fiction?" The answer is a little more slippery than one might think.

Let me offer you a little story. This morning I was supposed to go to a friend's house to help them set up their computer. It was a last-minute thing, so I just got my stuff together, hopped in the car, and took off. However, I hadn't eaten anything that morning, so I made a quick stop at the gas station to grab a couple of donuts to enjoy on the drive. They were of the same quality and texture you would expect out of gas-station donuts, and I ate them anyway because I needed something to keep the blood sugar up, or I would start getting cranky. So down they went along with a refreshing Diet Coke, and I went to my friend's house. I show up, go inside, and guess what? They have donuts waiting for me because they knew they called me at the last minute and I get cranky on an empty stomach.

Now here's the question - is this fiction? Well, I can tell you this much. All of those events happened in one way or the other. All of the facts and details are true. However, it is fiction because they didn't exactly happen in that order with the same people. I did go to a friend's place today to do computer stuff, but the donut part was from years ago with another friend entirely. And frankly, I rather enjoy gas-station donuts. So it was fiction, but the basic story is derived from a package of various truths, just reorganized to come to a specific ending. And that is all fiction really is.

Now, sometimes people respond with, "But wait - fiction is more than that. It can be robots and dragons and time travel and all that. Simple donut fiction is too simple to be an example." But is it? In the story above, I merely used a frame of reference that I knew everyone could understand. Turning it into sword-and-sorcery fiction of sci-fi fiction merely means changing the shape of various nouns into different ones. Instead of a car, I can hop on my six-legged horse, ride my hoverbike, engage my magical flying carpet, or just fire up the old MT-1000 matter teleporter. Fiction isn't in the nouns, it's in the story.

The difficult part of writing fiction is trying to find a bunch of events and occurrences that lead up to some significant point. That's the thing about reality - when we have a special set of events that adds up to a meaningful conclusion, we remember it. It stands out because usually life doesn't connect all the dots very well. In fiction, those dots have to line up perfectly every time. So when I ask the question, "What makes something fiction?" it isn't the aliens or dragons or zombies at all. It's only about whether or not those events did, in fact, happen in the order you said they did. The rest is just stage dressing. In that regard, writing fiction can be incredibly easy - it's just about putting together a bunch of blocks to make the shape you want.

In short, I always suggest people try writing fiction if only to see how they can take little truths of life, rearrange them into a new and more interesting order, and enjoy the result. It's kind of like writing non-fiction, just with an outrageous amount of creative license. And with some stories the ending might be more satisfying than all the gas-station donuts you can eat (my record is six).            

No comments:

Post a Comment