Posts Tagged ‘a writing lesson’


November 3, 2012

“Non-fiction writing offers information and enlightenment.  It contains the results of sometimes lengthy research and contemplation and presents it in organized fashion to the reading public.  Whether biography, memoir,  or scientific treatise, non-fiction writing shares real value.   College textbooks are an example of  non-fiction.”

Wait a minute!  Memoir? One person’s undoubtedly flawed memory of life events? Is that open to discussion?  

On the other hand:

“Fiction writing is a product of the imagination. It presents escape from reality, and entertainment.  Romance novels and western adventure stories are examples of fiction.”

Do you agree with these definitions?

Might you think, as I do, that they are at best very limited definitions, and, in the bare presentation above, narrow to the point of being open to attack as . . . well,  fiction?

Dare I say here that a lot of non-fiction is not, (in the strictest sense of the term), true?   A result of research or not, it can be opinion. And, even if true at the time it’s written, continuing research and revelation might reverse that truth. Furthermore, prejudice, even if based on supposedly true information supporting one point of view, will blur lines between fact and fiction.  (It’s true if you agree, false if you don’t.  Right?)  What’s more, since it is often presented as fact to be trusted, some non-fiction writing it can be downright dangerous to the public good.

How about fiction? I agree with the general dictionary definition of fiction as “something invented by the imagination.”  But how about this, further on in the same definition: “an assumption of a possibility as a fact irrespective of the question of its truth.”

Stretches thinking, doesn’t it? And, speaking for myself only, it’s how I think of fiction. I’ve never discussed this with any group of fiction readers or writers, but I sure would like to.  As it is, I can only speak for myself and for what I observe in the fiction I write and in what I read–which is mostly in the mystery genre of one type or another.

Oh, I have written “fact” and had it published in articles and one book.  I have been a broadcast journalist.  I have written essays and had them published individually and in a book.  I have written and sold poetry.  So–is an essay fact or fiction?  I consider it at least a blending, perhaps bare fact painted over with a colored brush in and in musical  words.  The same is true for poetry, which can be fact so wound with color, emotion, and introspection that it dances on a border called “faction.”

Which brings up a question–can fact make us feel anything?   Should it?  One could talk about that all day.

And how about fiction?  Who says it can’t teach? Open up understanding? We know it makes us feel.  A popular writing teacher in Tulsa, Oklahoma, frequently quotes a fiction editor’s remark, “Make me cry and I’ll buy.” I can speak only for myself, but I trust my fiction characters to teach me, and my readers, something new, something expanding  about life, as well as ideas about interaction with fellow humans, and, of course, about problem-solving and fortitude in the face of adversity.

My writing also teaches about actual places and helps readers see and feel what they’re like, but that’s secondary in my mission.  I want to teach about living.

Entertainment, yes.  Escape from reality?  Maybe, though I see my own mystery fiction as research into the depths of real humanity rather than escape from anything.  Is that too broad a definition for you?  I doubt it.  It isn’t for me.

I wish we could sit down together and talk about TRUTH AND FICTION.