“But I hate things all fiction… there should always be some foundation of fact for the most airy fabric — and pure invention is but the talent of a liar.” Lord Byron
Fiction: Creative writing, literature, invented story, imaginary tale, narrative, novel, short story.
Perhaps the most basic ingredient to create a work of fiction is idea. You start with an idea and develop it into a story. Where do you get your idea from? From your imagination, from newspapers, from books you read or simply from observing people around you. In the words of Somerset Maugham,
“I have taken an absorbing interest in human nature, and it has seemed to me that I could best communicate my observations on it by telling tales.”
Your teachers, writing instructors and coaches tell you to observe people and record the impressions they leave on you, either mentally or by taking notes. They advise you to study the way people talk, laugh, express sorrow. They tell you to listen to what they say, so that later on you can use these impressions or observations to create your characters. They recommend you mingle among friends, acquaintances, even strangers and watch.
I tried this method once. I went around and watched and talked to some of my friends and listened to their stories. I went as far as to write about the love story of one of them. But I couldn’t even get to page five. By page four the story was dead for me. Sure I had sympathy for my friend, but I couldn’t bring her story alive on paper. That’s when I realized that I didn’t feel connected with the story. Only when I started to associate it with myself and my experiences was I able to give the story context and make it plausible. And as Virginia Woolf said:
“Fiction is like a spider’s web, attached ever so lightly perhaps, but still attached to life at all four corners.”
Hence for me the notion to write about life in general is not an option, unless I write about my life. The oldest advice in the writing world perhaps is to write about yourself. I want to be the heroine in my books, and sometimes even the villain. Why not? I want to be and have the things I cannot be or own in real life. I want to believe that I possess all the virtues of my heroine.
“Would you not like to try all sorts of lives — one is so very small — but that is the satisfaction of writing — one can impersonate so many people.” Katherine Mansfield
I want to convince myself that I can be all my characters and be so real and authentic in my belief that I can actually pass this feeling on to my readers. In other words I want to stay true to myself and gain the trust and respect of my readers. And as Virginia Woolf said:
“No need to hurry. No need to sparkle. No need to be anybody but oneself.”