Gathered around The Writers’ Table last week we discussed two unique features found exclusively in Fiction and not in nonfiction. Feelings are central for the Writer and the Reader. Meanwhile the author’s adherence to authentic Facts(which we’ll discuss at length later on) remains every bit as important. No matter the genre, there’s nothing like the appeal of a well-written, enduring novel that offers entertainment with painless education on the side. The ideal reading experience is “curling up with a good novel,” not the latest How-to or Self-Help book.
Here are several more “F-words” that distinguish Fiction from its distant relative, nonfiction.
F is for Fun: Not all Fiction is Fun, but most is. If it’s fun to write, then it’s usually enjoyable for the Reader too. Although there is intense work represented by the simplest story, all Writers find pleasure in their work. If we don’t find pleasure, it shows through. At present, certain “Big Name Authors” have ceased to write their own stories, relying on a name alone to sell their books. Maybe they’re not enjoying the writing process anymore. The astute Reader can always tell.
F is for Freedom: No matter how many stories have been written about a subject or a character or an era, the Writer is always free to write something new about it, usually from another perspective. In our society, the Reader is also at liberty to choose something new, not what censors have dictated that we are allowed to read. If a Reader grew up with a passion for the American West, read Louis L’Amour, and later discovered Larry McMurtry, there are still many new options “at the buffet.” An author may present a different and perhaps controversial point of view through his story—we can be grateful that in our society there exists the freedom to write whatever’s in our mind and to share it. Writers are fulfilling the Reader’s need as well as their own desire to be heard.
F is for Focus. All photographers know what “selective focus” is. One person with a camera may choose to focus on a group of students rioting, using a wide angle lens to capture a big picture. Another photographer standing beside the first may zoom in on a nearby plant in bloom or the crumbling structure of a college building or a lone student, not involved and deliberately turned away from the others. Both have photographed elements of the same scene, but each has focused on something different. So it is with Writers. By focusing selectively, we are freed to tell a different story, perhaps a story rendered more intense because of its connections and focus.
F is for Fantasy. This popular genre is great escape literature, needed even more in periods of stress and uncertainty. Currently it may be almost too popular, with many trying to imitate earlier successful authors. Fantasy in some form is often the first reading that children are exposed to and what stimulates their curious minds.
There is no limit to what Fantasy can do, but the creator has certain challenges that Writers of more standard realistic fiction do not. The Writer’s task is to make his fantasy “facts” so credible that the Reader has no other choice but to believe and follow his story, turning the pages. To retain his Reader, a Writer must provide authenticity. His story must not be a weak copy of someone else’s, but contain its own worldview. Well-done Fantasy is mentally stimulating, the ultimate “what if…?”.
F is for Flow. Well-written fiction flows and pulls the Reader along with the story. Few nonfiction books can claim this appeal. It doesn’t happen by chance: novelists use language purposefully to involve Readers. More on “the essence of flow” later.
F is for Forward Thinking. So, the Reader may have dozed through most of his two required history courses in high school and really didn’t pay much attention to the world around him either, but he’s starting to catch up. Much later, he has started to read, absorbing fictional experiences and learning from them. Using “What if…” theories, he’s started to think forward. As an aficionado of spy-suspense novels, he gradually becomes more aware of current events. Perhaps the scenarios of the well-written espionage novel aren’t exactly the same as news reports of security breaches in the military, but he has learned to pay attention and think toward the future.
F is for Fellowship: With a good book, you’re never alone. Characters in a novel enter your life, briefly, vicariously, and safely.
Questions for the Reader: What book has brightened your life recently? Did it cause you to smile or laugh out loud? Reading benefits your health. If you weren’t enjoying the book, did you have the courage to set it aside and find another, one that you did enjoy?
Have you taken a bite of something you haven’t tasted before, like sampling at a buffet? We have the freedom to develop other tastes in reading–have you exercised your liberties? Have you looked closely at something from a new persepctive, an angle you hadn’t considered before?
Thoughts for the Writer: What about your current manuscript, the one you’re writing right now? How will it be enjoyable to the reader? Think like your Reader—that’s what it’s all about. Are you having fun with your current project? If you’re not, how can you expect someone else to enjoy it?
You’re the creator: you have freedom to approach your subject anyway you choose. Have you taken advantage of this opportunity or are you locked into one mode? Try your lenses at all different angles, close-up and wide and in between and from the side. Which will benefit your story most?
Stop by The Writers’ Table next week. We’ll continue to examine F-I-C-T-I-O-N as an acronym for elements unique to this form of literature and start with the first and very important letter I. Your comments, input, and questions are always welcome as we continue to explore The Wonderful Art of Fiction.
Keep on Reading and Writing,