The Best Thing About Writing Fiction

This morning, author Lazarus Barnhill posted an article on the Second Wind Blog about why he writes fiction. He wrote:

”When you write about a controversial issue, you don’t have to make it the center of your story to express it fully.  You just work it in.  For instance, when I wrote The Medicine People, I dealt a lot with the quiet underlying bigotry Native Americans and Western European descendants still harbor for one another but never express out loud.  And while it was essential to the story, it didn’t overwhelm the novel.  Stories have the power to make an issue live in the mind of the reader the way a speech never can.

“And the best thing about being a fiction writer is, you don’t have to brag to get your point across.  The best writer is one whose reader gets absolutely lost in the narrative.”

When I began writing, I had a lot to say about the way we are manipulated to suit the needs of big business and big government, and that theme underlies my first four novels. Though that theme was important to me, I tried to make the story even more important so as not to overwhelm the readers. I used up that theme, so I don’t know what I want to say in my future books, which is perhaps why I haven’t been able to write — I don’t know what I want to say, or rather, why I want to say it. I tried to write a story simply for the story’s sake, but that manuscript is stalled halfway through. I do have a theme for that — freedom vs. security vs. responsibility — but the book is not a thriller, has no mystery, is more of an apocalyptic allegory, which is something I would never read, so I don’t imagine anyone else would want to either. The point being, I write fiction because . . . Apparently I have no reason since I am not writing fiction at the moment. 

So, why do you write fiction? What is the best about being a fiction writer? What do you hope to accomplish with your writing? How do you make sure readers get lost in your fiction?

Let’s talk.

The group No Whine, Just Champagne will meet for a live discussion about writing and the writing life on Thursday, April 22, 2010 at 9:00pm ET. I hope you will stop by — it would be nice to see you. You can find the discussion by clicking here. If you can’t chat live, we can chat on this blog.

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3 Responses to “The Best Thing About Writing Fiction”

  1. joylene Says:

    It wasn’t until I’d written three books that I realized my themes were about the parent/child relationship. The complexities and pain of loving someone that deeply. I was a bit taken aback when it became clear to every else first what was beneath my plots. I was just writing the stories playing through my mind.

    Interesting post, Pat. My guest blogger Katherine Swarts’ post this month was about not lecturing to a reader. I see the connection now. In order to have a reader lose themselves in our books, we have to entertain and make their experience as effortless as possible.

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      The first drafts of all my novels had long lectures, Joylene. I got rid of most of the lectures. At least I hope I did. I want to make any points through the story, though I’m not sure what points I want to make any more. Will be interesting to see how my ideas and values change because of what I’m going through.

  2. knightofswords Says:

    My muse tells me stories and I write them down. In the process, I find out I’m actually living these stories–figuratively speaking. I like myths and transcendent theme. They find their way into my stories because they are who I am.

    Other than that, I’m telling stories and am not quite sure whether I have points to make or not.


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