Why do we write fiction?

It’s the weekend, and I should be outside paying homage to the sun as we Californians tend to do. But noooo. I’m indoors – like a fool – at my computer – because, as usual, that Nicola Morgan woman, once again, tweaked my nose with her life-pondering questions. Pity I didn’t see her post about writing fiction on Wednesday when she wrote it. I would have happily blown off a weekday to contemplate the more esoteric elements of my life. I’d put the whole thing off until Monday, but Morgan knows me all too well. Once that cat is out of the bag, I’m looking for a scratching post. She writes:

Why do we write fiction? Why should we? What does it do to the reader? Why? Why is it damned important? What will happen to the human race if we don’t do it and if readers don’t read it?

Now, Nicola’s post is more scientific and she uses all kinds of five dollar words because, let’s not pretend here, she’s a lot smarter than I am. Science and math were subjects that left me drooling on my desk, thus earning detention after school. So rather than talk about the brain – an organ I lack since losing it in a card game – I’ll attack this from the heart.

For me, fiction is about passion. Something is burning inside of me and screams to get out. The characters are like real beings, and they slam me down at the breakfast counter and tell me to shut the hell up because they have a whopper of a story to tell me.  I’ve considered the possibility that I’m mentally unbalanced [there have been rumors], but I think that burning passion is what drives a lot of novelists. We’ve been storytellers since the beginning of time, and it’s part of our genetic code. We were born with imaginations, and they simply can’t be corralled. Well, unless you play video games and watch MTV for hours on end.

I think our imaginations are what allow us to stay sane – or is that just me? It’s my escape from everyday life – my cosmic sigh. And isn’t that what fiction is about? Escape? We’re simply reading someone else’s cosmic sigh. Sure, our stories are often about realistic plots and characters, but they’re not our lives or our plots. This explains soap operas, eh? We escape to see how someone else handles a particular life-altering adventure and maybe, in the process, we learn a little something about ourselves.

I look at the characters of my own book, Donovan’s Paradigm, and I can’t help but admire the crap out of Kim Donovan. She has more guts than five of me, and the fact that she’s willing to take on the good ol’ boys of medicine gives me hives. I know I don’t have that kind of chutpah. She’s also a lot more stubborn than I am and tends to be “all or none.” Makes me want to give her a swift kick. But I have to admit that in my everyday life, I think about her and find myself wondering how Kim would handle that particular agent or author. She’d probably fillet them with her scalpel. In spite of her faults – or the faults of any character of any novel I read – I always pick up some grain of knowledge and pack it into my heart. Some of these grains incite real changes within me.

Personally, I don’t think readers will ever stop reading fiction. I look at how impacted genre fiction is – so much so that it’s hard to sell. This proves that we need our escape from reality. I think if we, as a race, did stop reading fiction, we’d become humorless automatons with no sense of imagination or humor. We’d be cutting off a valuable part of our humanity. Oh my GOD – we’d be politicians! So Nicola, bless her soul, can talk about narrative transportation, but I’ll simply say that it scratches my itch.

Crikey, Morgan, why didn’t you just ask for the whole meaning of life thing while you were at it?

8 Responses to Why do we write fiction?

  1. It’s so lovely outside – sunny warm – not the Portland we’ve had all spring and now summer. But where am I? In front of a rectangle of glowing screen, angsting out with the characters of my latest work in progress. Thank you for making me feel a little less of a freak. 🙂

  2. Sarah says:

    Great post! For me, fiction is about people I want to meet, places I long to see, and stories that end the way they SHOULD end (which is very different from Happily Ever After). It’s about the aspects of my personality I’d love to have and the ones I wish I didn’t.

    Many of my childhood memories are of lying in bed, mentally “fixing” a story I had just read.

  3. lynnpricewrites says:

    Holy cow,I remember “fixing” stories, too.Scary

  4. Lynn, why didn’t you warn me, you lovely fool, before I choked on my sandwich? I’m on a train, as you very well know, and I’m using my crappy little netbook which bugs the hell out of me, and there’s someone eating tomatoes right next to me, an another person who seems to have swine flu, so how can I concentrate on your post?? I am on my way to speak about narrative transportation at a conference, after I’ve done some school events in which I hope to transport the kids with my own narratives.

    Anyway, the point is that your heart is (I’m afraid) contolled by your brain and yes, you do have one and it’s a damned good one. I can and often do get very passionate about brains, I’ll have you know

    Would you also like to know what my last school science report said (just before I dropped physics and chemistry)? I know the words by heart: “Well below average. Nicola shows absolutely no aptitude for science subjects.” And I went on to write two books on the brain?? That’s two more than that science teacher, I bet. But mostly I write fiction, and I write it as passionately as I read it, because our hearts and brains need fiction. The human race needs fiction. As I plan to explain. If I don’t catch swine flu. Why can’t the frigging guy use a TISSUE????

  5. Lacer says:

    I write fiction because I have all these stories popping into my head at the most inopportune moments (like why does that scary looking woman on the bus have a spider brooch? when really I need to concentrate on looking for my stop) and I need somewhere to corral those ideas.

  6. lynnpricewrites says:

    Sadly, Nicola, dear, I understand the brain is our hard drive. Dang me for all the medical research I did for my novel. But “narrative transportation”? Really? It sounds so, so clinical!

  7. I love the phrase! It smacks of magic carpets and being carried away! Talking of which, I am now on another train and no longer in danger of swine flu. Unless it’s too late.

    Enjoy the sun (we even have some too). I can see it outside the train …

  8. I live in sub-tropical Queensland, Australia, where the sun almost always shines. But I wrote Dangerous Days as a form of mind escapism to other parts of the country and overseas places

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