Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Fiction is Harder Than Truth

Before we begin, in keeping with my tracking of Dan Brown’s “Inferno” success (not infernal), he is still ranked at number 1 in Kindle books with 382 reviews, 36 of which are 1-star. As we noticed before the percentage of poor reviews to good is continually decreasing. I credit this trend to haters losing their momentum.

Fiction is harder to write and more subject to harsh criticism than non-fiction and memoirs. This is not to say that authors of non-fiction are any less skilled or work less. Fiction comes from the author’s imagination and although he has some freedom with facts, geography, and imagery, in the end it all has to, in some way, be believable. In non-fiction, if the facts are correct, if you have all the persons, places, things, and occurrences in the right place and in the right order there is nothing to criticize about the story itself. Critics can review grammar, spelling, punctuation, and the author’s choice of topics, but that’s all.

In fiction, the characters must seem real and be believable. If the reader’s perception of a character’s actions, dialogue, or situation is that it could never happen, the reader believes it poorly written. Needless to say, every reader has a different opinion and preference of what will pass as real. Thus we can explain the huge difference between Dan Brown’s euphoric fans and his adamant haters. It does not necessarily mean that Brown is a bad writer; it means that his work is not believable, and does not appeal to a particular reader. A fiction writer can cause a character to survive a 100 foot jump from a building. It only requires a few keystrokes. However, to make it believable the jumper must be able to justify his survival. We all know vampires, werewolves, and superheroes can easily jump from any height, right? The novelist must either create normally believable scenarios or some extraordinary justification/explanation that readers will accept.

Fiction writers are subjected to readers’ grammar, spelling, punctuation, and composition reviews along with plot, characterization, dialogue, and story. Fiction can be stranger than truth if the writer wants it to be, it just has to be believable.

The next novel you read, try to imagine the author’s perspective, and if the story is a good one, give him or her a break.

It is motorcycle season and signs everywhere caution us to watch out for bikers. Let’s do that and while we’re at it, let’s watch out for authors.

Your comments and questions are always welcome.

Elizabeth’s Secrets
Dark Star

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