F-I-C-T-I-O-N—“T” is for Truth

What if I were to announce that Fiction is the literary form best designed to convey and reveal the Truth? If I were back in my old classroom I would imagine a phalanx of frantic hands, waving before my face in protest.

“But Mrs. Lockhart—”

“Don’t you mean it the other way, that only nonfiction tells the truth?”

No, absolutely no. Actually, the student answered his own question. Nonfiction is data-based. It is ideal for documenting, delivering an account, and telling facts, not showing the Truth. So what’s the difference and what makes Fiction so ideal?

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Characters in Fiction–The Letter C takes the Cake! Part 1

These blogs that lightly touch on the Wonderful Art of Fiction don’t presume to cover everything or examine all aspects in the depth they deserve. The Writers’ Table is highlighting the passionate, distinguishing attributes that separate fiction from so-called nonfiction. Knowing even some of these differences gives authors incentive/promotional tools for marketing our art. As we work our way through the acronym F-I-C-T-I-O-N, the letter C  has much to offer.

C is for Characters. Without characters, a story would be events, dates, and outcomes. In other words, the same as nonfiction and not very interesting. Characters bring a story to life and permit the Reader to engage with other real people. Many Writers prefer a character-driven storyline. How would a particular person act and react in a given set of circumstances?

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The Wonderful Art of Fiction: Show, Don’t Tell

Nonfiction is always at its best when telling the reader something. There’s a distinct role and need for it. If travelers need to find out the best routes through Northern England and Scotland for a driving vacation, they will research a respectable source of good data on the subject. Likewise, if a couple really believes that the impossible is possible, they will seek out instructions on How to Build a Brick Barbecue Grill in One Weekend. These books excel at telling: they provide information alone. (I’ll confide with my readers that the book about barbecue grills should be considered fiction. Please don’t ask.)

By contrast, fiction, from word choices to structure to themes, is supposed to show the Reader what’s happening. Writing teachers even have a mantra: “Show, don’t tell.” Yes, just like in kindergarten.

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Fiction–The G-Rated “F-Word,” Part 2.

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.                    

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The Wonderful Art of Fiction–the G-Rated “F-Word,” Part 1

In this new series of blog posts we’ll use the acronym F-I-C-T-I-O-N to help Readers and Writers view the traditionally accepted role of fiction in a new light. No matter the genre, there’s nothing like the appeal of a well-written, enduring novel that offers good 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.

Let’s examine the passion and aliveness that distinguishes fiction from so-called nonfiction. One Writer once described fiction as “real life with all the dull parts left out.” That’s a good beginning, but there’s even more to it.

F is for Feeling. For those of us with even one year of high school journalism, one dictum was drilled into our heads: “You must not allow feelings or opinions to intrude in your writing.” Unless you were lucky enough to write editorials, now known as Op-Eds in many periodicals, or even feature stories, your writing was deliberately sterile and devoid of feeling. Most nonfiction remains that way.

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Writing is All About Reading

Writing is all about Reading: My blog title should make sense and stand by itself, yet I’m sure that in the minds of many it does not. I’m proud to be an author and to claim many other authors as colleagues, but all of us were first and foremost voracious Readers. Furthermore, none of our writings—mine or that of my friends or even the Greats of all Time—would have existed beyond the moment of pen-to-paper had it not been for Readers.

My next several weeks of blog posts are directed to both Readers and Writers of Fiction. You Readers of nonfiction should stay tuned as well. Anything that we enjoy, we enjoy even more if we understand how and why it reaches us and touches us. Why does a certain kind writing have compelling power? Why do others not?

Readers and Writers are in this together. For Readers, you’ll enjoy understanding better why you like to read certain authors and genres as well as why you don’t like others. If you’re in a book club, you may find inspiration for stimulating discussions. As a bonus for Writers, you’ll learn how to reach those with the same passions that you write about….

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Wrapping It Up & Winding Down

Here most writers’ coaches and writing teachers would talk about the necessity of devoting yourself to your craft. That is the most important message of all; I’ll echo those sentiments heartily.  However, if you’ve arrived at this point, really ready to publish, I  presume that you already have done that and your manuscript has been through umpteen revisions.

When you’re ready to publish, you’ll not have just finished typing “The End.” [Read more...]

Myths, Legends, and Misunderstandings, Part 2

What follows over the next several blog posts is based on a compilation of queries I’ve received, usually away from my blog so as to guarantee anonymity (something which  I heartily respect). They’re problems people have shared with me while other parts of the post are based on personal experience. As much as I would like to, I will mention no specific names of publishers.  It’s just the ethical way to go.

I had my book e-formatted for $475. That must be a top-notch job—isn’t it? With what I paid for the service, it must be guaranteed high-quality.

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Independence Day: More Myths, Legends, & Misconceptions

July 4, 2012.  Breaking free!  This seems like a good theme for Independence Day. Read on and you’ll see why. The following posts are based on questions received at The Writers’ Table.

“Help! What can I do? I paid XYZHouse.com to publish my book three years ago and now I’ve been fighting to get my book back!”

I have heard this many, many times and the statement thoroughly puzzles and pains me.

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The Mythical Agent and The Book Tour

Agents exist, so that’s not the mythical part. The myth exists in the minds of writers, especially those who have written (or have almost written) a first novel, that as soon as they type the words “The End” an agent will swoop in like a magical fairy and—presto!—with a wave of a wand, that writer and his/her book will become famous.

Next, of course, your agent will arrange a booksigning tour for you….

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