Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Fiction: It Just Isn't Real?

Someone I know, upon hearing I write fiction, said, "Oh, I don't read fiction. Only non-fiction. I won't read anything that's not real."

It stung a little.

And I shrunk back, shortcoming on the floor at my feet.

But I've thought about her comment a lot, and, for me, turns out her assessment doesn't hold much worth.

For me, fiction is the truth, embellished.

Don't writers of fiction (save maybe sci-fi or fantasy) start with a nugget, a shining, promising hunk of truth? A personal experience? A moment of life? Don't they build upon that using their own histories? Using factual knowledge, true emotion? Fiction comes from scenario, shaped by life circumstances and potential.

That's real in my book. pun intended

Take my post from Monday. I made you wonder, is it truth or fiction? The answer? I took a grain of truth and polished it into something representative of circumstance.

Did I sit in a similar place recently? Yes. Did I worry over the news? Yes.* And, as many of you commented, you've been there, too. What had been real to you in the past became real again as you read my words. Relatability is huge in fiction.

No, I didn't think about the chemistry of the chair beneath me, or pretend to float off on air. But couldn't that have been true?

Fiction isn't real?

To my mind, there's really no question.


*I myself am healthy and fine. :)

**The shortlist of finalists in the 2010 Author Blog Awards is up at Completely Novel. Though I'm not on it, you have my sincere thanks for your support and nominations.

34 comments:

june said...

I deleted a long response here. I'll just say. "I absolutely concur" :D

Susan R. Mills said...

Absolutely! There is some element of truth in all fiction. That's why readers can get so caught up in a story. They believe it could happen, and like you said, they can relate. Great point! Glad to hear you are healthy and fine.

Kristen Painter said...

Whoever said that to you sounds like a very close-minded person. Even Jesus used parables! People say stuff like that because they think it makes them sound intellectual. In fact, it makes them sound like idiots.

scarlethue said...

That's a weird thing to say. Who doesn't read fiction? Sounds to me like they just don't read at all.

Lynnette Labelle said...

What's wrong with fiction not being real? Don't we all want to escape reality every once in a while?

Lynnette Labelle
http://lynnettelabelle.blogspot.com

Tamika: said...

There is a definite element of truth. Fiction is shaped around real life.

I'm so glad to hear you are healthy- praise the Lord!

Lyra said...

I think what you said is true for science-fiction and fantasy. After all mythology was just a way for people to explain their surroundings and unexplainable events.

Science fiction still deals with human nature. The dressing is different for these but they still a truth.

I write science fiction and fantasy and I would have to say they are the same as other fiction. Otherwise I completely agree with you.

JLC said...

Different people have different tastes, and there are plenty of people who prefer the safety of 'facts' over 'imagination.' Even fiction has varying degrees of 'realism', but ALL fiction has a touch of it. Historical fiction, or fiction based on true events have the least amount of 'imaginative elements' whereas space operas or epic fantasies might have the most. All are justifiable forms of writing, all deserve to be on the shelves.

Don't take opinions to hart. They are only opinions, not facts. My grandfather-in-law informed me that English was a useless major and science fiction was trash. (He was an engineer) I know he was a very 'left brained' individual who thrived on mathematical facts. Of course he wouldn't have respect for creativity. But I don't write for him. I write for those who enjoy a good fictional adventure. :)

Susan J. Reinhardt said...

Hi Janna -

Excellent observations, and I agree.

As a writer, life experiences, bits of truth, overheard conversations, familiar expressions, emotions, etc. all come into play when writing. As a reader, a novel has comforted me during a time of stress or given me a new slant on a situation in my life.

Aesop used fables to teach principles. Novels can function in much the same way without pointing a finger.

Blessings,
Susan :)

Jody Hedlund said...

I agree, Janna. Fiction is ultimately the pouring out of our hearts. Maybe we haven't had the EXACT experiences as our characters, but the emotions, the problems, the heart and soul of the book--those are real, not only to us, but hopefully to our readers.

Jesus told many, many stories to relate to people and to share truths. Stories are incredibly powerful mediums for conveying reality.

Deb Shucka said...

I relied on the truth in fiction to guide me through a childhood I might not have survived otherwise. As a memoirist, I read fiction (actually always have) voraciously not only for my own pleasure, but also to see how story reveals truth in powerful and effective ways.

Rachel Burton said...

No fiction? No make believe or imagination? No daydreaming? No what ifs? What a colorless life.

Tom Stephenson said...

I believe in anything.

Nadine said...

Whenever I write, there's always a piece of me in there. There's always some truth.

Terri Tiffany said...

I like how you look at fiction. All my fiction has some truth in it--that's the starting point for me:)

patti said...

Whew...Praise God you are healthy!!
The rest of it--pshaw. There's a million opinions out there.

You are a wonderful writer. I am so proud of you.
patti

Karen said...

I love both fiction and nonfiction. Didn't Jesus use "stories" as teaching examples? Good teaser, there, Janna.

She Writes said...

Uh, hello! The planet is filled with famous fictional literature, read by academia the world over. Her shortcoming was laying at your feet!

The Hat Chick said...

The first thing that came to my mind was "Well, Jesus was a pretty good storyteller. Who doesn't love a good story?"

Natalie said...

Well said Janna. I love fiction because I actually get to experience life through someone else's eyes. A lot of what I write is based on my own experiences too. Non-fiction feels more cold and impersonal to me, (though I do enjoy a good memoir or biography every now and then).

Lillian C. said...

Wait just a second.

Fiction... isn't... real????

WHAT THE CRAP??? When did this happen??? NOOOOOO!!!!!!

...Anyway. All fiction has at least some truth in it. I write mostly fantasy, and I draw heavily on real-life experience to "enrich" my writing.

I think, with a bit of tweaking, that one Mark Twain quote works well here: The man who does not read good [fiction] has no advantage over the man who can't read [it].

Terresa said...

This is interesting, the concept that fiction isn't "real."

Years ago when I was in college, I took a creative writing class. The assignment was to write an autobiographical event as a short story.

When it came time to share it with the class, everyone's reaction to mine was, "How could this have really happened? It seems more fictional than reality."

Crazy, huh?

In my own writing now, I gather endless elements of daily life and thread them through my stories and poetry.

Discount coupons said...

There is a specific element of truth.

Lori said...

Yes, fiction can many times go deeper to the heart of truth than non-fiction ever could.

Diane said...

I write what I wish would happen to me or has happened. Great thoughts! :O)

www.dianeestrella.com

Capri K said...

What a silly comment to make to someone!

Non-fiction can be helpful, but certainly not all of it is REAL! From my perspective, some is junk.

Fiction can be the same, wonderful, or junk.

lakeviewer said...

Real? What's real? Are dreams real? They happen! Good post here!

Analisa said...

I agree and I think it is sad when people limit what they will read. Reading is the strongest tool we have to learn. Fiction stimulates the mind and ehances the imagination. They don't read fiction so I guess they don't go to the movies or listen to music. Someone made those up too.

Cassandra Frear said...

You make a compelling argument. There are many great works of fiction that have been meaningful to me, even though I usually gravitate towards nonfiction at the library and bookstore.

septembermom said...

In order to breathe on the page, fiction must have a good dose of truth. Readers need to have that moment or recognition or connection.

Kathy said...

Fiction is stretching the truth.

Glynis said...

We use truth as the basis of our stories. Characters are often people we can relate to.
Interesting post, glad you are healthy. Happy Scribbling.

Melanie Avila said...

That kind of statement always frustrates me, especially from people who are movie buffs.

Alyssa Joy said...

Just came across your blog through Wendy's. Great post! As an artist, I can totally relate. I went to school for illustration. Most of my work involved creating images that were based on truth and making them something more. Even if I render a face, I use what I know to make the drawing look more real or interesting. Everyone is entitled to their opinion, of course, but I would probably be a little hurt, too, if someone told me they didn't like to look at illustrations because they weren't true.