There is nothing wrong with telling lies for a living. Writers of fiction are not the only ones who do it. So long as there is no intent to commit fraud or harm, why should we not? After all, it is not only writers who tell lies for a living. Poets, artists, singers and songwriters, actors, commedians…
Why do we love these liars, buy their books, music, art and movies? Because we find value in suspending our disbelief, opening our hearts and minds to their lies and finding that most valuable kernel of truth.
Why? Because sometimes we want to be swept away from reality and entertained, amused, or reassured that good can win over evil, love makes the world go around and we can get what we think we deserve. We may be looking for a way to deal with a situation, seeking a model to emulate, an example to follow, inspiration to greatness, or courage to continue toward our goals.
We learn much from being entertained in this way, about how people think and feel, how they reason and why they do what they do. Both as an example to follow and to avoid.
Sometimes we need to learn the lessons we don’t learn from reality. We need the objectivity of not being so personally involved.
There are hundreds more reasons why we need stories. What are your favourites?
True stories can sound unbelievable. Though often based on truth, they must often be ‘massaged’ by a writer for various reasons, including:
- protection the innocent or the family or friends of the innocent… the identity of the person or persons involved who may not appreciate the fame or notoriety;
- providing the story with a background which ‘makes sense’;
- to bestow a richly deserved ‘happy-ever-after’; or
- deliver your ‘character’ the karma they deserve because the slippery eel avoids everything they deserve in real life…;
- making sense of an event which the writer cannot understand in reality;
- because the reality sounds far-fetched; and/or
- to avoid legal proceedings for defamation, slander etc.
Which have you done in the course of your writing or come across in your reading?
How does a good fiction writer reveal the truths that reality obscures? There are two ways: by what she tells us, and by what she leaves out of the story.
The story the reader finally reads in your book is like the 10% of the iceberg above the waterline. The rest, the 90% below water is the blood sweat and tears that went into the 10%. All the things the writer knows about the story but left on the ‘cutting room floor’.
So what should be left out? Big blocks of back-story, The boring bits, the mundane everyday things that happen, the bits of dialogue that translate to ‘Hello, how are you?’ and the ‘Fine thanks. Hasn’t it been hot lately.’ Unfortunately, there’s always lots of interesting information about the characters, lots of intriguing research and darling little scenes. But, anything that slows the pace of the story, anything that drops the reader out of the story, anything that allows the reader to remember that sleep is essential, that phone calls need to be made, housework must be done, that’s what’s left out. Padding, filling, fluff, waffle, anything repeated…you got the idea.
So, what’s in the tip of the iceberg? The story, the whole story and nothing but the story.
There are many ways to make your book a pageturner. Here are just some.
- Craft suspense whatever your genre. Make each scene and chapter a cliff-hanger, leaving the reader with questions for which they need answers.
- Create a delicate balance between what your reader knows and what each character knows.
- Foreshadowing what is to come creates anticipation.
- Lead and mislead your reader at appropriate times.
- Language and word choice create mood and atmosphere.
- Lush writing involving all the senses creates an emotional response in the reader.
- Dripfeed your story, allowing your reader the satisfaction of piecing most things together for themselves.
- Use pacing wisely. Vary the pace at which the story moves, sentence length and structure to build to a climax or relax the reader before a shock or surprise.
- Raise the stakes both external and internal for your protagonist, then set a clock ticking on a time limit.
- Use twists and turns to keep the reader curious.