This week has marked a personal milestone, something benchmarked twelve years ago for fifteen years in the future. My Big Hairy Audacious Goal. This week I posted off my identity book to the publishers. It’s out of my hands now, finished, no more work to do – except edits of course – but no more research or writing. Much as I would love to recount the twelve year journey, I’ll save that for another, more PMS laden blog.
What I want to write about here is the ability to write more than one thing at a time. I have been writing the identity book while I have been writing my novels. Some would say that this is impossible, but I have found it quite productive.
It would be impossible for me to not write anything else when I am writing fiction as I write for and edit a journal as well as website content, it’s part of my day job. I also write this blog. That would be the minimum. In my case, I have an avid interest in psychology and philosophy and this drives me to write what I know about it, particularly bridging the gap between theory and praxis. So I have developed a model, or theory, that allows for everyday lives to be studied with the people who are living them being given a voice in science – this is what my identity book is about.
Great, you may say, but how does this relate to fiction writing? Well, the first thing is creativity. Theory in science appears to be prescriptive and rigid, but theory development is not. It allows for multiple truths and the development of ideas outside logic and, as long as you can prove they work, entry into the scientific system. So theory development is highly creative. In the same way fiction is, because both present new ideas which are not considered to be ‘truth’.
In my particular case, I developed theory straight from (other people’s) experience through a process of narrative methodology. To cut a long story sort, I ended up with a set of commonalities between women’s lives that resonated with all the women I interviewed, in a dialectical axis. This means that, for example, on the subject of love, there is a comparison often between love and sex; they are on the same axis but can oppose each other’s in experience and meaning.
So, I decided that I would theme my fiction with these dialectical opposite themes to see how they worked. After all, I have looked at the lives of many women and seen how this operates and resonates. I made up stories of characters whose lives reflected these dialectical opposites and had them live out a story, just as real women do.
From this I have learned two things. The first is that the only fictional thing about fiction are the characters and how the situational aspects. The meaning of the stories and the way we relate is real, at least in our resonating minds. Even the order of the stories with a beginning, middle and end are prescribed, as are the genre’s. Is this why we like ‘fiction’ so much, because we recognise it?
The second is that writing fiction and non-fiction is not so different. The main difference is another dialectical opposite on the axis of imagination. For fiction writing one needs a prescribed structure and rough outline with a lot of imagination and a little fact. For non-fiction writing, you need a prescribed structure and a rough outline with lot of fact and a little imagination.
My question from this is where does fact end and imagination begin? For the next blog…