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Thread: Why it is important to write fiction

  1. #1
    Kyriakos's Avatar Praeses
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    Default Why it is important to write fiction

    An article of mine, which could alternatively have been titled "Why write fiction?"



    Why it is important to write fiction


    It is great, and also terrible, to write fiction
    There is a lot of merit in arguing that writers of fiction find themselves in both the best and the worst of positions: due to their chosen type of literary output they indeed are without limits in what may be expressed; for imagination itself is boundless. At the same time, there exists no official credential to indicate who is suitable to produce this type of work; and this often tends to cast a shadow on the profession of writer of fiction...
    In a way, a writer of fiction can come across as a self-styled philosopher, obscure artist or aspiring private pedagogue… And yet one should never be discouraged by reactionary attitudes to this kind of art, because it has been commonplace in all eras to be suspicious of new writers, and also to speak negatively of the supposedly unprecedented high number of authors.
    Wanting to write isn’t a modern phenomenon
    Indeed, one should not make the mistake of believing that it is a new phenomenon to see so many writers around; it was already noted in 19th century Britain and France, and in fact it was already argued to be an issue even in Ancient Greece! And not just according to Aristophanes, for whom, after all, Socrates really was a superfluous character… At least Socrates himself never tried to write – although Plato and Xenophon left accounts of his work for millions of future of readers to enjoy.
    In other words, the number of people who wish to produce their own stories was never low to begin with, nor would it be correct to claim that a particularly modern type of vanity – or some other negative reason – is behind the appearance of so many creators of works of fiction in our own time.
    On a definition given by Pessoa
    People do feel the need to express themselves; and writing is one of the most direct ways to do so. That said, can it be expected that virtually every person will have a notable story to present? I think that this question does not have a straight answer, because one has to take into account whether or not the writer will manage to become familiar enough with their own self: Knowing oneself, at least to the degree that you know what you have inside, and how to present it in words, can be said to be crucial for all those that write… There exists a famous quote by the Portuguese poet, Fernando Pessoa, in which he sums up in a sentence a definition of good, mediocre, and bad writing:
    “The good poet writes what he feels, the mediocre poet writes what he thinks he is feeling, and the bad poet writes what he thinks that he should be feeling”.
    This quote presents the view that the only thing actually needed so as to write well is to accurately express how you feel; if you merely confuse the reality of your emotions with your views about them (what you think you are feeling) then you belittle the value of your work, and the worst thing you can possibly do (according to Pessoa) is to try to emulate some other writer or be overly conscious of what a reader may think of you, because you believe that what the other writer expressed was what passes for important work, or that the reader whose views you have in mind will actually serve as a helpful guide …
    What may be achieved from writing fiction?
    But what does it mean to “write what you feel”? To present your own emotions, correctly, and without blurring their truth with false notes? Would such a writing be similar to the flow of a dream? One can recall another quote, this time by H.L. Borges, according to whom “Writing is only a guided dream”. And, reflecting on this, one can also mention that Sigmund Freud had once argued that if you alter your dream, as you write it down, you have then unwittingly become an author!
    I think that, indeed, owning to the vast complexity of the human mind, if a person manages – due to talent, luck, persistent work, or any combination of those – to bring to the surface some elements from the depth of the internal mines of treasures we all carry around with us – and of which we all remain mostly unaware of – then this person has already become a very needed artist, and deserves eternal praise. With that in mind, writing fiction is not a competition, but a communal, a pananthropic attempt to bring new and wonderful ideas and images to the attention of others. Hopefully we stand to see many more such ideas, and many more remarkable stories!
    by Kyriakos Chalkopoulos

    (more articles can be freely read at my Patreon page; link in my signature)
    Last edited by Kyriakos; May 31, 2019 at 07:52 AM.
    Λέων μεν ὄνυξι κρατεῖ, κέρασι δε βούς, ἄνθρωπος δε νῷι
    "While the lion prevails with its claws, and the ox through its horns, man does by his thinking"
    Anaxagoras of Klazomenae, 5th century BC










  2. #2

    Default Re: Why it is important to write fiction

    Everyone can be a writer. Writing is nothing more than realizing a vision for text, and in this way, someone making a technical document is as much a writer as Tolkien - skill, quality and volume gap aside. A writer of fiction is a similarly wide field; it often consists of very humble beginnings that ultimately range anywhere from a life making very small poetry about a nonexistent scenario to, again, Tolkien, or G RR Martin.

    The beauty of this medium, or curse if you prefer, is that the doubt or confidence simply does not exist in the beginning. It is a blank slate. From my experiences I have not seen an inherent skepticism of fiction writers, particularly new ones. Instead, I see... well, nothing. They are nothing. They might as well not exist until such a time that people come along and read their content, wherever it may be. The world revolves and nobody cares, until their audience begins. How does it begin? Well, it would help for the writing to be relevant to its host platform and intended audience, and if that's the case, the initial following tends to be quite positive, though small. There will be people who dislike it of course, but to get to my point - an author is made and undone by the perceived merits of their work. There are many things you can do to influence this image in the meantime. But, I think I'll move on to another point.

    Storytelling has been a massively popular medium for a very long time. I think it isn't accurate to conflate that with actual writing, since the ages past made that rather difficult for the common audience to do. Literacy was far lower than it is now, diminishing the potential audience by leaps and bounds up to a rather short time ago in human history. There is no doubt considerably more writing in the anient days than we found, but I think it is telling that we pretty much only know of the highest profile examples - people of means who wish to endure the work and have the resources to pull off a medium that was simply way harder to do than it is now.

    My conclusion on the above would be that the ages have always been filled with prospective writers, but it is only recently that the true convenience of the art allows people to produce it en masse in the volume you speak of. They may have argued that it was a problem in times past, but as we receive new frames of reference, we are able to say more confidently that a 'problem' or rather state is far more pervasive than ever before. Older periods only ever have a frame of reference for their version of 'now' and what came before. They were indeed revolutionary periods of writing at the time, but history marches on, and I believe we are nearing an apex as far as where we can viably go in technology. The endgame is in sight, at least from my current frame of reference. Who knows what later periods, should we be graced with existence for that long, produce with thoughts of hindsight.

    The value of a story and a writer's vision is one of the most subjective things you can conceive. You can try to apply objective scales to how it is constructed, and in this I believe there lies a few easy answers, but as far as what something means to you, well, that's another matter entirely. I will work to refute multiple lines you post here by drawing on my own example, as well as others I've seen.

    To know oneself is indeed a critical element of writing; however, it is very provable that the value of writing is often interlinked with control over literary elements, the ability to provide a cohesive story, and how to present characters that come across as authentic. This does not lie entirely in the ability to know yourself, perhaps not even close, even though I do find it extremely helpful and enriches your content. However, the appropriate technical knowledge and the ability to write it authentically can pull off the same result. It can still make you feel. And there I come to another point.

    What's essential to people enjoying your writing is not the writer's ability to convey what they feel. What's essential is for them to write what they want, and make you, the reader, feel. It doesn't matter what sat in your heart when you wrote this article. What matters is the meaning I derive from it, and what other readers derive from it. This is the metric by which your work will be quantified. The audience determines if your writing is good or bad, if your works allow you to live or die by that profession. An individual can present characters with no connection to themselves and receive positive results. This I have firsthand experience in, and it is one of the few things I consider to be my talent - the ability to detach and look at things in another mindset, using different variables, effectively creating another personality with which to judge. This is not to say such detachment is required for good writing. Very good writing can come out of simply plundering your own well, and for people who try to go deep in it, that well is a vast resource.

    Good writing may arise from using another writer as a frame of reference, and then continuing what you perceive to be their work or using their foundations to explore further. To appeal to a reader's perception may be to mark the difference between what you want to do that isn't appealing and what you are capable of doing that makes millions of dollars. These things can be abused and there are plentiful examples of such, but they, like many other things, are tools and angles that are viable if they are executed properly.

    Otherwise, to the end. There is indeed value, in my view, to individuals who can express their deepest beliefs through their writing. It's quite respectable and something I believe there should be more of. Too often do I see writing devoid of passion and effort, which are two things essential to creating anything that will resonate with readers, and thus propel them from the obscurity they find themselves in from the beginning. Fiction is an exchange of ideas as much as it is an escape from the monotony of what is true, even though what is true is so vast and deep that a person focusing on that can easily find a wealth that will never expire. Like it or not, all fiction can and will be plagiarized. Not as individual words, broad themes or concepts - though all of those are, of course, common - but in their spirit, in the abstract elements that make people feel. And that's OK. Alone we only ever have our own wealth, and though it is deep, it is a narrow scope. Draw from others, and you have the opportunity to create something that blends the best of multiple views, and if they are selected carefully and presented well, you may find something come out that's stronger than whatever you originally imagined.

    But, I'm going to be blunt now. Your post is repeated, literally. Past the halfway mark it's the same thing over again.

  3. #3
    Kyriakos's Avatar Praeses
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    Default Re: Why it is important to write fiction

    Wow, that final (blunt) point was really good! Fixed now

    Btw, i am not of the view that a writer should ever try to guess how the reader feels or what they want to read. In fact to do so would be disastrous. I do think that a writer has to be able to cause the readers to feel, but that is a different kind of calculation (to the extent that it is a calculation).
    Λέων μεν ὄνυξι κρατεῖ, κέρασι δε βούς, ἄνθρωπος δε νῷι
    "While the lion prevails with its claws, and the ox through its horns, man does by his thinking"
    Anaxagoras of Klazomenae, 5th century BC










  4. #4

    Default Re: Why it is important to write fiction

    Quote Originally Posted by Kyriakos View Post
    Wow, that final (blunt) point was really good! Fixed now

    Btw, i am not of the view that a writer should ever try to guess how the reader feels or what they want to read. In fact to do so would be disastrous. I do think that a writer has to be able to cause the readers to feel, but that is a different kind of calculation (to the extent that it is a calculation).
    I don't mean this in the sense of actively catering to reader inputs, changing the story to what they say they want, or to write in the hopes of appealing directly to a given base. No, that's not the idea at all. Rather, writing is a matter of vision, and it is this vision, what you want others to derive from your work, that is the key. You can, of course, write 100% for you and give absolutely no care to presenting a particular vision or a more specific message. But, all writing I've seen with any degree of popularity is content that was written with particular aims and designs, and for this I use the blanket term of vision. In this we have the consideration of causing readers to feel a particular way. If they don't, the answer is not to change your writing to appease them, but rather to work on enhancing the presentation of what you are trying to convey.

  5. #5
    Kyriakos's Avatar Praeses
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    Default Re: Why it is important to write fiction

    I am of the view that some degree of knowledge of writing - eg use of symbols and mood-setting - goes a long way to create atmosphere. While my own work has deeper meaning for myself, it is certain that if some connection is formed with the reader that is due to the reader's mental world. They translate the schematics in their own way, and a connection can be formed.
    The phenomenon is essentially the same with all use of language (when i say "one" we communicate, but obviously not on the level of how i sense the notion of "one", let alone how it is formed unconsciously in my own mind), though it is complicated further by the deliberate use of ambiguity.
    Λέων μεν ὄνυξι κρατεῖ, κέρασι δε βούς, ἄνθρωπος δε νῷι
    "While the lion prevails with its claws, and the ox through its horns, man does by his thinking"
    Anaxagoras of Klazomenae, 5th century BC










  6. #6

    Default Re: Why it is important to write fiction

    Certainly, and I believe there is nothing contrary to what you said and what I am saying. Knowing the tools of writing is extremely useful in the construction of atmosphere, which is downright critical to forming a vision and what you seek to convey. Really, we're probably saying the same thing, with me just focusing on particular keywords, vision being one that's fairly unusual in this context.

  7. #7
    Kyriakos's Avatar Praeses
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    Default Re: Why it is important to write fiction

    Agreed
    Λέων μεν ὄνυξι κρατεῖ, κέρασι δε βούς, ἄνθρωπος δε νῷι
    "While the lion prevails with its claws, and the ox through its horns, man does by his thinking"
    Anaxagoras of Klazomenae, 5th century BC










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