Recently I’ve had a couple of excellent conversations about writing , and a couple more specifically looking at the border between truth and fiction.
Pablo Picasso said art is the lie that tells the truth. Sounds right to me. Sounds true to a lot of writers. Off the top of my head, I can think of at least two books on writing that have a spinoff of that phrase in the title.
If the goal of fiction is to have the reader suspend disbelief, there has to be enough the reader can understand and relate to in order to do so. In walks truth. How much? That’s the $60 question, isn’t it? Personally, I think that’s where the lesson from Greek dramas walks in, it’s all about moderation. Enough reality to make the work relatable, enough fiction to make it an enjoyable read.
Unless, of course, you’re writing a roman a clef (a tell all, a “novel” that shares actual people or events overlaid with a thin veil of fiction). Most of these are interesting only because the protagonist or main event is extraordinary. I don’t know about you, but I can’t think of any event or time period in my life that was so exciting, I could carry a reader through four or five hundred manuscript pages with my daily happenings. Certainly not more than one manuscript, and as a writer, I don’t want to stop at one.
When I was a kid and went to the movies, I would get a popcorn, heavily salted, and a box of Sno-Caps (nonpareils). I would proceed to dump the chocolates into the popcorn, and shake them up. I think writing is that treat. Popcorn is the kernels of truth, chocolate the fiction. Closing your eyes and taking a handful of fiction, mostly chocolate, with varying bursts of salted corn breaking through. Enough to enrich the experience, but not so much that the reader risks cracking a tooth on an unpopped kernel. Blogging, for me, is the opposite; mostly popcorn, just enough chocolate sprinkled in to make it interesting to someone besides myself. Yanno, all six of my readers.
I think this is the real difference between genre fiction, mainstream or contemporary, and literary fiction. Genre having the most chocolate, the balance shifting as you get into longer and or headier novels.
Our tastes change as we age and mature, tastes change with different eras. Classics are classics because there’s enough truth within them to be timeless, but the fiction they’re dressed in might not be accepted in today’s market. Or tomorrow’s.
I wonder what Ernest Hemingway would make of The Real Housewives. How thick do you like your veil of fiction; gauze, lace, brocade?
I like reading historical fiction like the clan of the cave bear. These usually have an amazing amount of truth in them as far as the lay of the land was then etc…Lots of research.
One way or the other, in details of place, events, and the human condition, there must be truth. 🙂
I find that I am increasingly attracted to fiction that is not realistic at all (the best example would be Jasper Fforde). I think it helps me “switch off”.
I’ve had phases like that, but even fiction that isn’t realistic has to have something real…something we can use to orient ourselves 🙂
You are right of course, one needs something to relate to! I tend to like reading about a “real” character placed in an unrealistic setting.
Yes! It’s all about the characters, for me. 🙂
I like historical romance… Some authors are a lighter read than others but it’s a blend of fiction and truth/reality I really enjoy. I also like medical suspense- fiction plus a dose of truth in those, too, some more plausible than others of course. Bizarrely enough, I like to read those when my kids are inpatient or sick and I can’t sleep.
Yeah, i know how much sense it makes to read about a plague epidemic or a psycho spreading a killer airborne infection through the hospital ventilation system when my daughter is sick in one of those beds, but I like it. 😛
I used to love medical suspense, haven’t read any in a long time. LOL, there was a very funny moment one night when Flower Child was inpatient in the EMU, roommates family and I watching House, calling out dx, watching for szs on and off the screen 😀
I watch Criminal Minds when I can’t fall asleep. Love the show, but it puts me right out. Who knows how our exhausted minds work? 😉
Authors like Jodi Picault, in her exploration of ethical/moral/health issues is an author I really like too. I guess the “issue” the book is built on would be the truth, with the fiction built around it. Though many of her endings leave me very I satisfied. I don’t require a happy ending, but she seems to go out of her way sometimes to end the book badly.
I’ve read and enjoyed several of her books. I appreciate that she addresses “real” issues in commercial fiction. It isn’t her endings that have bothered me, but I have, several times finished the book feeling a little bit cheated. If you’re bringing up and tackling these major, moral issues, I’d like the substance to be meatier, kwim?
Yes, I can definitely appreciate that. As an example- “My Sister’s Keeper” is one of my favorite Picault books but I hate the manner in which she resolves (non-resolves) a very pivotal issue in the book. So much time is spent determining whether or not one sibling, as a minor, has the right to decide whether she can be compelled to donate an organ to save/prolong her sister’s life. On the other hand, though, her sister doesn’t want it. Why isn’t she given the same autonomy to decide for herself whether or not she receives this organ when her sister dies?
Completely agree. I started out loving that book, but felt very disappointed/unsatisfied by the end.
I am married to Mr. Left Brain who never runs out of words & I don’t watch TV so I read a lot of fiction. That way I can read the same paragraph over & over without it being such a waste to even try to get something out of it. I’m Mrs. Right Brain, you see.
I stick mainly with Christian fiction because I don’t want to read all the descriptive bedroom stuff that finds its way into so many books. The Christian fiction authors have improved in their writing styles so much that they are enjoyable to read. I switch between historical, contemporary & suspense. I get tired of the same type if I don’t. I think my favorite historical authors are Brock & Bodi Thoene. Their Zion Covenant & Zion Chronicles were spell binding as they took you through Hitler’s take over one country at a time & the process of Israel becoming a nation in 1949. They were the first authors I had read that took you so far with one setting & left you at a cliff hanger only to go back & pick up another cliff hanger that you were not ready to leave previously. What a ride those books were!
Francine Rivers, Karen Kingsbury, Dee Henderson, Terri Blackstock all kept me looking for more of their books & were popular even in not-Christian circles. Ted Dekker has an odd way of looking at life & some of his books can leave me at a place I’d rather not be when the book is done but I loved the Circle Series & related books. The switch between worlds was amazing & done in the Thoene style that kept you reading.
As a child I read every fiction book in the class room & many in the library. I loved taking a break from helping my mom care for my 6 siblings, getting an apple & curling up to escape to another place. I often wished I could write something wonderful like that. I still do. My gifts are in other areas. Besides, I’m not sure I could sit still long enough to compose a story. A short poem is about all I have done & that is only on rare occasions when something just starts flowing.
I am so looking forward to reading some of your stuff Mrs. F. I know you will get there one day. Keep at it & never give up as my Dad always said.
Christian, or Inspirational Fiction has changed a lot in the past 15 years or so. A much broader range of books available, with stories that go a lot deeper than they used to. It’s no longer one genre unto itself, it’s an element of story 🙂
Love imagining you as a girl, curling up with a book and an apple. Could any moment ever be as perfect as those early days of losing yourself in a story?
I take breaks, sometimes really loooong ones, but I don’t think I’m likely to stop writing.
I’m glad you keep at it in the middle of your life situations. Escape in reading or in creating a new story is a reprieve for a bit from the reality of now.
As I side note, I will try to keep my comments a bit more brief & not put a blog in your blog in the future. LOL
Momma Sue, I always love when you contribute, and have never wished you would edit. This is one of the best parts of blogging, the conversations that occur in the comments. ❤