What Is ‘Fiction’?

(seriously guys)

Okay, quick one here because I’m busting my arse to finish and publish today’s Twelve Stories Of Christmas story, the conclusion to a riveting two-parter with all the narrative force and exciting plot of a wet towel being dipped into an inkwell, then slapped ineffectually onto a piece of paper in a cost-cutting, austerity-era equivalent of the old adage ‘Give a thousand monkeys a thousand typewriters and they’ll produce the works of Shakespeare’, so sorry if this is a bit short or undeveloped.

in writing said story, however, I’m cone to reconsider what fiction is; there’s the obvious definition that it’s not real stuff, things made up in place of real events and people to convey meanings and ideas somehow relevant to, influential upon, or in response to, those real things. And I’d always considered that a narrative – thing happens, then thing b, then thing – was the best way to suggest meanings and ideas, as that provides a framework within which characters can be introduced and have a reason to do things, and I’d always thought characters, with their ideas and physical descriptors and distinction between speeches and thoughts, were a pretty good way to suggest and deconstruct ideas.

But is a narrative necessary in fiction? Today’s story, for instance, doesn’t have much of a narrative; there are like two narrative events, one of which happens outside of the text, and the rest of the text is spent with individual characters thinking about things, and talking to each other, and bouncing ideas around, almost in a total vacuum of events, that wasn’t my intention when I started writing it but I’m getting worn down by this constant writing malarkey so I’ve apparently decided to abandon narrative without really meaning to.

I think this’ll make this story a shit one – certainly my least favourite so far, but that might change once I’ve written all twelve and am looking back on them with fresh eyes in a few weeks – but there’s an idea in there I’ve rather stumbled across, that characters, at least for a few thousand words like I’ve written here, can exist perfectly happily, and ideas be mentioned without feeling too shoehorned in, without a driving narrative; my day four story did this, I’m now realising, that there was a single narrative goal for the characters to achieve, and the text was spent with the characters becoming increasingly distracted from that goal and never reaching it, which was a bit of an accidental Shandyism on my part.

So maybe fiction doesn’t need a narrative, as long as the characters and places within it are representative of real-life ideas, instead of explicitly being those ideas; and if this whole post hasn’t been too English-student-bullshitty for words, I think I’m learning something from writing these stories already.

My writing blog, where all these fantastical* stories and more can be found.

* NB: Stories are under no obligation to be fantastical


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