Sunday, July 27, 2008

Fiction Myth Buster

I've always considered myself a writer of fiction. Or at least, I wannabe fiction writer. Writing books was my first love, and what got me into journalism in the first place. As my previous blogs state, I am in love with journalism, but fiction is still my first.

In my attempts to write fiction over the years, I have learned one valuable lesson that I want to share with the world. Or at least, my blogging world. Which isn't very big, but that's beside the point. I'm sharing knowledge people.

Common Fiction Myth: Write what you know.
I hate this, because everyone thinks, upon hearing this, that they should write an autobiography, and I'm sorry, but unless you're a person who has made a significant contribution to history, or are a pop icon, no one cares. Actually, people shouldn't care if you are a pop icon, but that's another story. My point is, most of us don't have an interesting enough life to bother penning down our life story. I mean, who would buy a book about a student who has a serious fetish with her major and more siblings than she knows what to do with? Exactly, no one cares.

However, I think the person who originally said that was onto something. But rather than say, "Write what you know," I prefer to say; "Don't write what you don't know."

That dispells all the illusions of Average Joe's life story. What I think people mean with that original myth is: write about things you understand or have experienced. Not your whole life, but things you understand. For example, I'm not going to write a novel about war and blood and guts. Cause it would suck. I know nothing about it.

I once went to a writing workshop where this writer said he didn't think real fiction existed, just fictionalized experiences. I think that's a bit of stretch, but he's got a point. Just because I've never lived in a fantasy world doesn't mean I can't write about it, but I write things I know and understand into the story. Not my life story, just elements of it.

There. That's my wisdom for the week.


Eileen Young said...

Great comment - but, should I stop writing my personal history (an ordinary life) that I want my posterity to have?? Maybe they may just learn how exciting ordinary life can be. I like to be proactive, a participator not just a spectator. Shouldn't they follow my example?? and hence enjoy the 'ordinary ' life??Grannie

juliancalebmomma said...

I agree with you Elena- real life is boring. But at the same time, what about books like 'Anne of Green Gables' and 'Little Women' and even 'the Good People of New York' (and probably a bunch more that I can't think of because I don't know enough books). These are all a bit semi-autobiographical (the author's home towns, profession, similar experiences), but they've added in a bunch of fiction to spice it up. Maybe a bit of both?

somebody said...