Fiction: The What, How & Why of it…

Chapter one of GWW Writing Fiction: The Practical Guide from New York’s Acclaimed Creative Writing School by Alexander Steele, as the title suggests, examines the what, how and why of fiction.

Fiction |ˈfik sh ən|(noun): literature in the form of prose, esp. short stories and novels, that describes imaginary events and people.

According to Steele, as humans we write stories for two reasons: entertainment and meaning. Entertainment is obvious. But what in the world does he mean when he says, “we seem to have a primal need for fiction, or really any kind of story, that is as deeply rooted as our need for food, shelter and companionship,”? Well, as humans we are curious and we are insecure. We are searching for the who, what, where, when and why in life. As Steele says, this lofty goal is the search for truth.

Think of the classics. Think:

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen (1813)

“The Tell-Tale Heart” Edgar Allen Poe (1843)

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain (1885)

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald (1925)

“The Lady with the Dog” by Anton Chekhob (1899)

What do these all have in common? They satisfy our primal needs. They are both entertaining and have great meaning.

I’ve come upon the first “Your Turn” of the book.

Choose a work of fiction that you cherish. In a single sentence,
try to state the major reason why you love reading this work.
Then list several ways with which you think the author achieved
this effect. The reasons don’t have to employ any fancy terms 
and they don’t have to make sense to anyone but you. You’re simply
trying to tune in to the source of the magic.

I can’t pick my favorite work of fiction. It simply isn’t possible. That is just as impossible as picking my favorite song. I cannot do it. I’ll do this exercise on my most recent read, The Girl Who Played With Fire by Stieg Larsson.

I love reading this book because Lisbeth Salander is so extraordinary, and yet she possessed qualities that resonate with readers.

The author achieved this because 1. He made Salander a loner who was beaten down by society and those she relied on. Who hasn’t felt this way before? 2. She was odd, someone not many people would give a second look to. But she was a capable and extremely moral person hellbent on doing what was right. Who doesn’t want to fight for what is right? 3. Though relatable, she is extreme, an extent  readers would think about going to but probably wouldn’t have the cajones to carry through.

What I am saying is she provoked my curiosity because she was a peculiar character and yet, she was like me. She fights for what she believes in. She is searching for justice and the truth just as I am. Salander was just one aspect of the book though. I think the book was phenomenal because it takes readers to a fantasy that still grasps at reality. Seemingly real people in extraordinary situations, I suppose. Makes you wonder, if I were in those situations would I do what these characters did?

Have you read The Girl Who series by Stieg Larsson?

What did you like and how did Larsson achieve that effect?

This post is part of my creative writing experiment that will get me writing more often and more creatively. All excerpts and “Your Turn” prompts are from the Gotham Writers’ WorkshopWriting Fiction: The Practical Guide From New York’s Acclaimed Creative Writing School. As I write my way through this book, I welcome all constructive criticism, suggestions, advice and comments. 

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3 thoughts on “Fiction: The What, How & Why of it…

  1. Mom (Debbie) says:

    I feel a career for you would be critic for grand restaurants or a product critic. You unique writing style captures the reader!!!
    Very impressive

  2. […] are just seeds. To plant these seeds and get them to grow big and strong, they need to be both entertaining and meaningful and satisfy our primal need for fiction. To satisfy both, fiction demands better story telling than […]

  3. […] the previous GWW posts I learned about the what, how and why of fiction. Chapter 2 Character: Casting Shadows by Brandi Reissenweber is about what makes fiction […]

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