I’ve got a degree in Creative Lying and Strategic Truth-Stretching from the University of Fiction.
Okay, not really, but I do love writing fiction because making stuff up is so much fun! There are still boundaries I have to respect in order to make a story feel real and believable.
For instance, when I write contemporary mysteries/suspense and women’s fiction, I have to obey the laws of the world. For example, if the story involves a crime (all right, in mysteries, someone always ends up dead), police procedure must be followed and the motive must make sense. The environment should match reality: I wouldn’t write about snow in Phoenix in June (or ever, really) or incorrectly reference an actual landmark (but I can–and did–make up a fictional suburb of Phoenix). I also have to follow the expected behavior of people. If a character behaves unexpectedly, I have to present enough background to the reader so that they know it’s a reasonable behavior (but not so much that they flip through several pages to get back to the good stuff).
If I wrote science fiction or fantasy, I’d have other rules to follow—like world-building so the reader can picture the environment in which the story takes place. I’d have to be able to concisely describe the surroundings or their world in a way that readers wouldn’t be confused. Then, all of the scenes in that book would have to stay within the framework established.
If I wrote romances, I’d have to be able to craft a stormy, tension-building relationship and then a steamy scene where the angst bubbles over into passion. I have the foresight to know that writing romance is not for me. My climactic love scene would probably involve the man poking the woman’s eye with his nose, or the woman breaking out into an uncontrollable nervous giggle as the man caresses her collar bone after unbuttoning her shirt. (I don’t read romances very often because I end up disappointed when I come back to reality. It’s disturbing when I find I’ve got a crush on a fictional character–I mean, the rogues and rakes in novels never…I repeat, NEVER leave their smelly socks on the floor, burp at the dinner table, leave the toilet paper roll empty, well, you get the idea.)
The beauty of fiction is that I can draw from my own interactions, but make my characters handle them better – or worse – depending on what the story calls for. But using variations of personal experiences on their own would make for a flat story (because I can tell you, most of my life has been quite boring as I’ve lived it…it could only be worse reading about it after the fact.)
So, in my quest to write made up stories with enough reality to make them plausible, I’ve had to learn new things too. A win-win situation, don’t you think?
Here are a few quotes about fiction that sum up my thoughts:
Fiction is like a spider’s web, attached ever so slightly perhaps, but still attached to life at all four corners. Often the attachment is scarcely perceptible. —Virginia Woolf
Imagination and fiction make up more than three quarters of our real life.–Simone Weil
Good fiction is made of that which is real, and reality is difficult to come by.–Ralph Ellison
I think I write fiction for the opportunity to get beyond the limits of my own life.–Wally Lamb
Fiction gives us a second chance that life denies us.–Paul Theroux
Fiction is about intimacy with characters, events, places.-–Robert Morgan
What have you learned by writing fiction (or even poetry or non-fiction)?