Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Why Write Fiction?

Writing Wednesday

Why do I write fiction? Because sometimes the jester is the only one in the court who can speak the truth. And because sometimes the untrue is more true than the true.

One of the fundamental rules of writing is, "Show, don't tell." This is actually a fundamental rule for life; people are much more willing to adopt an idea if you show them how to arrive at the notion themselves than if you hand it to them finished, polished, and ready to place on their mantle. A story can be spun that shows how concepts affect the lives of one's characters much more clearly than trying to find an example in the life of an actual person.

One of the things I learned in graduate school is that there is no such thing as "objective" history; every attempt to recapture the past is an interpretation in which some things are emphasized more than others. We build models for the same reason: to emphasize some aspects of the thing being modeled while ignoring others. In other words, models are a simplification of reality. Fiction is the literary equivalent of model making.

What are your favorite examples of a work of fiction that expresses a truth better than reality?

Image: Simon Howden /

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