What is fiction? It’s made up, it’s truth, it’s pretend, it’s your reality, it’s your imagination – it’s all those things. Or as Elizabeth Forsythe Hailey had a character in one of her novels say: “Finally you must free yourself from the facts and create a lie that tells a larger truth.”
In class this morning I covered the four elements of fiction: Character, Plot, Theme, Setting, plus point of view and use of tenses, past and present. This is the craft part – the technique that you can study in a class or on your own by reading fiction. In a class you’ll make dutiful notes on all this, but you won’t really learn anything until you start looking for it in the novels and short stories that you’re reading. Why is a character so compelling? What makes you want to keep turning the pages to find out what happens next? Why do you feel like you’re really in this place that you’re reading about? What are the themes in the story that touch you and make you ponder your own life?
This was the point of my lecture in class about fiction – be aware of these questions when you read. Get carried away with the story, but then go back and see how the author did it. Good authors and not-so-good authors; you can learn from both.
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