Notes from An Alien

~ Explorations In Writing { and reading and publishing } ~

Be Real ~ Especially If You’re Writing Fiction . . .


If we look at the common definitions of “Fiction”, we find:

1. A literary work based on the imagination and not necessarily on fact

2. A deliberately false or improbable account

3. The creation of something in the mind

If we venture into the history of the word “Fiction”, we find meanings like: “something invented”, “dissimulation, ruse, invention”, “to shape, form, devise, feign”, and, ultimately, “to knead, form out of clay”.

The meaning of words depends, to a certain degree, on their history: #3 above is similar to “forming out of clay” but #2 is like “dissimulation, ruse”.

How do we decide which meaning of a word is the right one?

Where the word is used, or its context, is a strong determinant of what it means.

So is writing fiction all about just making things up?

Is there any need to adhere to reality when creating fiction?

Can fictional writing convey truth?

There was a man, important in American letters, who was an inspiration for Henry Thoreau and Walt Whitman.

That man was Ralph Waldo Emerson and it was said of him: “…the brilliant genius of Emerson rose in the winter nights, and hung over Boston, drawing the eyes of ingenuous young people to look up to that great new start, a beauty and a mystery, which charmed for the moment, while it gave also perennial inspiration, as it led them forward along new paths, and towards new hopes.”

Emerson didn’t write fiction but I think his statement about it might help resolve some of those definitions up there:

“Fiction reveals truth that reality obscures.”

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8 responses to “Be Real ~ Especially If You’re Writing Fiction . . .

  1. Sonia G Medeiros June 9, 2011 at 3:47 am

    I really like that: “Fiction reveals the truth that reality obscures.” It does seem that fiction can reveal so much.

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  2. Simone Benedict June 9, 2011 at 10:52 am

    I really like that quote. Another way to look at it would be to consider some of the fiction writing that arose out of oppression. Writers were able to express ideas and reveal truths even though freedom of expression was suppressed. That’s an extreme, but just one thing I thought about.

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  3. Alexander M Zoltai June 9, 2011 at 12:38 pm

    Sure is true, Sonia–reveals so much to our readers and, as we write, to ourselves, eh? :-)

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  4. Alexander M Zoltai June 9, 2011 at 12:40 pm

    Simone, I think I get what you’re saying but can you (pretty please) say just a bit more about it??

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  5. Simone Benedict June 9, 2011 at 2:40 pm

    My first thought was literature from perhaps countries of former political systems that suppressed freedom of expression to the point of imprisoning people because of their art. But then I think of groups of people throughout history whose voices have been silenced by other systems. Those people let their voices be heard anyway, often in fiction. Does that make sense?

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  6. Alexander M Zoltai June 9, 2011 at 2:56 pm

    Makes perfect sense, Simone. Thanks for the elucidation :-)

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  7. Simone Benedict June 9, 2011 at 9:12 pm

    Well, now that I’ve been thinking it over for most of the day, I’m kind of thinking the opposite of the quote is also true. “When the truth of reality is obscured, a fiction results.” From this, I have a theory. I believe that fiction writers are also truth seekers. It could be in fiction, we finally arrive at truth. Personally, I haven’t seen too much truth in books labeled “non-fiction.”

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  8. Alexander M Zoltai June 9, 2011 at 9:47 pm

    I *love* it: “…I haven’t seen too much truth in books labeled ‘non-fiction’.”

    Also, I do think most fiction writers are “truth-seekers” :-)

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