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Why Write Fiction?

June 3, 2009

More to the point, why are people reading fiction in order to create this space for writers? I had assumed with the present uncertainty within the world economy that people would be more interested in researching investment strategies or ways to decrease their spending habits. However, recently I read somewhere that sales within fiction has increased substantially over the last year and it got me wondering, Why fiction? Why now?

My Fireplace

From cavemen to scholars, people have been drawn to fire places, grave sites and photocopiers on the presence of other tasks – but in order to share stories. In times of economic crisis, humanity have turned to the arts; theatre, film and more recently – with the increase of mass literacy – fiction. For many, the escape into another world holds more appeal than facing the grim reality they endure on a daily basis.

Advertisers have long known the value of story telling, with successful executives suggesting that when they tell the story of their product, not just its features, options and physical components, that their appeal with their audience will be longer lasting and become more personal.

I would have assumed people would be more interested in finding ways to recapture a sense of economic security rather than delve into an imaginary world. However, therein lies the truth.

Can fiction contribute to our development as a human being or is its only value to society the inexpensive ability to escape? As a journey-being of fictional writing, my future depends on the theory that it can assist society in its cultural, spiritual and mental development.

If this theory is true, then we as writers of fiction hold a great responsibility. Fictions purpose is not only to transport the masses from their worries; but it is to instill hope, present opportunities and to impart lessons of the human spirit.

My need to write is very similar to those things that inspired me to read – as I am sure they are with others. I don’t belong to the group of writers who have had a clear calling all of their lives. (Its perhaps something I am a little envious of as I maintain I am still working out what I want to be when I grow up.) However, there are characters who desperately need to exist, places and spaces, realizations and thoughts that have to be expressed. They might be just thoughts, but they demand to be let out and for whatever reason; they have camped at my place and taken residence over most of my existence.

Stories explain, justify and inspire in a way that abstract reasoning just can’t. Knowing something about the value of stories in our lives can provide us some insight about who we are and perhaps a glimpse of where we are going. Its my belief that fiction is valuable to the development of our society, as it provides a safe space for experimenting with new ideas. I would even go as far as to say that reading and writing fiction in these difficult times can help us obtain the mental flexibility required to discover ways to create prosperity and happiness.

What do you think? Does Fiction have the capacity to do this? Does it inspire us to go on, to be better?

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Annie Evett is thankful that she has been chosen to share the stories of so many interesting characters, but is disturbed at the insistence of some of her more dark and less than likable ones, wondering about the value they add to society.   Catch her growing amount of websites and blogs here
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  1. June 3, 2009 1:16 am

    Great post. And great question. I think fiction during these times can be a mixture of escapism and trying to understand the world.

    In my case certainly, writing and reading fiction is a way of contextualising the world, putting the issues together in a story which is an alternative way of understanding things that can exist side by side your usual philosophical debate.

    Though I don’t think you can change the world or change people’s ideas through fiction alone. It usually serves as reinforcement to the ideas changed through people’s own lives.

    My two cents, anyway.

  2. June 3, 2009 3:17 am

    Yes, I would say that fiction and literature are important to our development. They become a part of our culture, and more than people might first realise, our cultural backgrounds can have a huge impact upon how we behave.

    If people really were more concerned with ‘researching investment strategies’, then we would have taken a step closer to the future imagined by Huxley in Brave New World where fiction has been scrapped and the creativity of humanity has completely atrophied. I am glad that this is not the case as I believe having forms of creative outlet is important in our lives and indeed should be considered a vital necessity as it enables us to grow, intellectually and as human beings. Stories can help us make sense the world and even the darker characters and themes have their own place to play in this.

  3. June 3, 2009 3:26 am

    You make the important point that fiction will always represent a form of escapism. We were just talking about the very fact today at brunch. People read books to have an experience and part of the experience (or at the essence for most people) is to escape. It is much cheaper to buy a book than pay for an exotic holiday.

    It makes me wonder why publishing houses cut staff, put a hold on taking on new authors or authorising new print runs. Granted many of the big publishing houses have made very unwise investments (especially in the celebrity tells all’ genre – throwing massive advances there way to tell their story) but lets face it – how many people want to read it when they can pick up a $3 gossip mag?

    I’m hoping the recession is great for writers – though as always it will be the middle and end men who make all the money, while the writer/author who create the book in the first place, will always take the smallest share. You only have to look at John August’s experience of selling his short story ‘The Variant’ through Amazon – with Amazon taking a 66% cut of the electronic download for the Kindle to understand where the money continues to go in bad economic climates. Next thing we’ll have Amazon crying poor!

  4. June 3, 2009 3:59 am

    thanks everyone – I’m glad I touched on a subject that appears to be close to all our hearts. I agree Jodi re publishing houses I also think it seems mad that publishing houses have gone away from the short story genre – especially in a time that society needs those small snippets of hope, or amusement or sheer escapism.

  5. Ad Lad permalink
    June 5, 2009 12:47 pm

    “Can fiction contribute to our development as a human being or is its only value to society the inexpensive ability to escape?”

    Absolutely it can. Personally I never write anything for mere entertainment or escapism. After reading one of my stories, I want people to think differently about the world and their relationship to it, even if it’s only for a few minutes. Ideally, they’ll linger in their subconscious for a lot longer.

    There are many books that have had an impact on my life and thinking. Nineteen Eighty-four, Animal Farm, Never Let Me Go, The Handmaiden’s Tale, Death of a Salesman spring to mind immediately, but there are probably many more.

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