Fiction Writers: why do you write what you write?

Discussion in 'General Writing' started by J.T. Woody, May 13, 2018.

  1. Spencer1990

    Spencer1990 Contributor Contributor

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    I'm actually guilty of these sorts of lists myself! In fact, I just started a story with one, haha! I don't read very many "literary" novels, but I do read a ton of short fiction. I don't think I see an inordinate amount of lists, but I definitely see them. Raymond Carver does it a lot. What I like about it is that it throws you straight into the POV of the character. What the character notices can add quite a lot of depth to the POV and give insight into the current state of mind. That's exactly what I'm going for in my current story.
     
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  2. Spencer1990

    Spencer1990 Contributor Contributor

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    Thanks for the recommendation! I've been thinking about the Paris Review as a home for it because I've noticed similar things.

    So, I want to clarify that I don't think literary fiction is pretentious. I love it as well. I think me calling my work literary fiction is pretentious because I don't feel adequate (most of the time) to call myself a writer of literary fiction. It's more of a self-deprecating quirk that I have because I feel out of my depth, not good enough, a fraud, etc. Does that make sense? It's me who I feel is pretentious to call my work literary, not the actual literary fiction.
     
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  3. jannert

    jannert Member Supporter Contributor

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    I rather enjoy the lists ...but not everybody does. I can hear the loud sighs and grumbles coming from the kitchen (where my husband likes to sit and read) whenever he encounters one. At least it doesn't put him off reading literary fiction. But I found it interesting that even though I reckon many literary authors think they are being unique and not following any kind of formula ...in fact there IS a set of expectations they work within, and boxes they tick.

    I also think they often deliberately create distance between the story and the reader. We are supposed to observe a situation, and judge a character by what they do and how they think, rather than share the character's outlooks and experiences as if they were happening to us. Again, I don't mind this distance. It's part of the genre. You won't find sentimentality or Mary Sues in a piece of literary fiction.

    Is there an opposite of a Mary Sue? A Morag Gump, or somebody like that? Whom nobody loves, who isn't good looking, who can't do squat without screwing up, and to whom nothing ever comes easy? Hmmm.
     
    Last edited: May 15, 2018
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  4. Spencer1990

    Spencer1990 Contributor Contributor

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    There are definitely expectations, but I guess I can live with those? Does that make sense? I don't mind the lists. I don't mind the emphasis on style. I don't mind doing the things that make my work literary. I would, however, mind having to world-build to write a fantasy story. I would mind having to write a HEA or HFN ending.

    I identify strongly with what @deadrats said here:
    I have some stories that have a sci-fi lilt to them, or the plot is contingent on sci-fi elements, but I don't think they are genre enough for genre fiction. These are also the stories that I have trouble trying to find a home for.
     
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  5. deadrats

    deadrats Contributor Contributor

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    I feel like a fraud all the time. Daily. Right now. When I sold a story my first thought was "Were the editors all drunk or something?" Literary fiction is a kind of fiction. If that's what you're reading, you probably have a good idea of the landscape. So, write your literary fiction and submit. It took me years of trying and since then have been rejected a million more times. But sometimes I think our stories (literary short fiction) can say even more than we intended.
     
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  6. deadrats

    deadrats Contributor Contributor

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    Interesting that my lover and I were recently having a similar conversation. I pay close attention to what is being published where and totally try to write accordingly. I don't feel like it limits me because I'm trying to write stories like I read. But I will admit that when I see a lot of something such as The Paris Review likes literary sexy or The New Yorker likes stories that name drop other famous works in a lot of their fiction, I give those kinds of things a shot in my writing. I want to be influenced by what I read. My lover compared my writing style to a paint-by-numbers strategy. Joking. Somewhat true. Didn't I just admit that I'm a fraud?
     
  7. jannert

    jannert Member Supporter Contributor

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    Actually, I think that's true of many kinds of fiction. However, I reckon it's the body of work, not an individual piece, that reveals what an author's outlook truly is. You read one story, you only get one story. But if you read two by the same author you can begin to see similarities and recognise things being worked over again. If an author writes a story about somebody who contemplates suicide, that doesn't really say much more than whatever the story is about. But if the author writes five stories, all containing something about suicide, you can come to the conclusion that this is not just a one-off issue for that author. That's when reading becomes exciting for me, and the author becomes more than just a writer of words.
     
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  8. jannert

    jannert Member Supporter Contributor

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    I don't think that makes you a fraud unless you are writing stuff you don't believe in, just to be able to sell. If knowing what a magazine wants inspires you to write a story for them that will fit, then that's not being a fraud. That's being openminded. I WOULD begin to question your motivation if you started churning out stories for Chicken Soup For The Soul, however. :eek:
     
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  9. deadrats

    deadrats Contributor Contributor

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    LOL. Yeah, I guess you could say that feel good stories aren't my thing. :)
     
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  10. jannert

    jannert Member Supporter Contributor

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    My husband actually got a story published in Chicken Soup for the Soul, after saying 'anybody can write this shit.' He was right. Hilarious.
     
  11. J.T. Woody

    J.T. Woody Active Member

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    Its a personal choice. I PERSONALLY feel that if I chose to model characters after certain cultures or races, set in at some point in history or even a "now".... I PERSONALLY feel that I would not do it any justice. I feel that doing all the research in the world about a certain race or culture, there is still ways to unintentionally misrepresent it or offend (e.g. "thats not how we really act" and "our religion doesnt quite say that" etc.). so yes, out of respect, I rather not write about real people or real events. That does not mean that I do not have real people or refer to real events in my writing. They just are not the focus, and in my alternative reality, I don't have to worry about misrepresenting people.
    And, I never said I wrote historical fiction........
     
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  12. J.T. Woody

    J.T. Woody Active Member

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    (I seem to get crucified whenever I say this, so here it goes....) I've never read the GoT books. My first introduction to it was boredom and scrolling through channels on TV. Didnt know what it was, or that it even had books. I just started watching it. But yes, it totally threw me when all of a sudden, theres a dragon.... oh wait! then there are zombies! BUT WAIT, THERES MORE! a Frankenstein dude! It got too weird for me. I was fine with the minor magical elements like Bran's visions and even Melisandre.
    'tis just me....
     
  13. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor

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    I only read the first two books, or possibly the first book and a half. I fairly recently got an almost-free Kindle of the first several books, and spent some time using Search to get myself to all the Arya and many of the Tyrion scenes.

    Same for the show--I watch Arya and Tyrion and the Hound on YouTube. I haven't seen even one episode straight through.
     
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  14. izzybot

    izzybot Transhuman Autophage Contributor

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    I write what I like to read: character-driven genre fiction. I love worldbuilding and the escapism of making/exploring a different world with different rules, but I always want to ground it in the lives of people who seem real. I really like the idea of mundanity in fantastic settings, and of humans still basically running on the same software that gets us in the same jams no matter how far in the future we are.

    A while back there was this tweet making the rounds from this woman with a robotic prosthetic arm (for my life I can't remember her name; all I can think of is Simone Giertz, but she's a roboticist) who was at a convention or expo or something, and she needed to plug her prosthetic arm in ... but all of the outlets were occupied by people charging their phones. There's just something absurd and delightful about that to me. We already live in a pretty weird future and I want to take that and make it even weirder and cooler and simultaneously more fucked up and more amazing.

    The same woman (I think her first name's Angel but I can't scramble up the last name) likes to write her shrug kaomoji with one arm: ¯\_(ツ)_,

    That's the kind of detail I love to come up with in my worldbuilding.
     
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  15. Lawless

    Lawless Member

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    The answer is simple: I write SF because I don't have to do too much research. If I wrote a novel set in Buenos Aires, I would have to know what Buenos Aires is like. I could get street names from Google Maps, but there is no way of knowing things like how congested this or another street would be or what kind of people live in which neighborhoods.

    I love to read stories set in modern or ancient China, but I could never write them because I just don't know enough to make my Chinese locations and characters believable.

    I have an idea for an alternative history novel set (mainly) in my hometown. That I can totally write in a credible manner. Science fiction, however, limits my creative freedom even less.
     
  16. OB1

    OB1 Active Member

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    I TRY to write the story I have in my head. I have a story that I have visualised. But at the moment the difficulty is getting the words down on paper.
     
  17. J.T. Woody

    J.T. Woody Active Member

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    EXACTLY!
    I don't understand why deadrats just doesn't get this...
     
  18. deadrats

    deadrats Contributor Contributor

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    You can write whatever you want. It doesn't mean that people who write realistic fiction are disrespecting anyone. That's sort of what you are implying by saying you stay away from realistic fiction out of respect. Again, do whatever you want, but what people choose to write about has nothing to do with respect or not respecting someone or something. You said you I don't get it, and I'm saying your statement is a little insulting to people who don't feel like you. Maybe you can understand that. Good luck to you.
     
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  19. rincewind31

    rincewind31 Active Member

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    People tend to write what they enjoy reading, so for me, I generally write hard core pornography involving kitchen utensils and genital shaped vegetables. There doesn't appear to be much of of a market for my 24 book series so far though.
     
  20. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor

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    Eh...if I write about a place or a culture, I think it’s respectful to get a pretty high percentage of the facts about that place/culture correct. I think that a story that claims to be about a real-world something, but doesn’t remotely resemble that thing, is kind of disrespectful. (Of both the thing and the reader.)
     
  21. John Calligan

    John Calligan Contributor Contributor

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    Writing about real people and places is just held to a higher standard than it used to be, which is fine. It does make it harder.
     
  22. Cave Troll

    Cave Troll Contributor Contributor

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    Location:
    Where cushions are comfy, and straps hold firm.
    I write what I want, and what I like to read.
    And also being unconventional with some
    of my other works that allow me to explore
    my other fantasy life. :p
     
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  23. J.T. Woody

    J.T. Woody Active Member

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    i never said that THEY are disrespecting others. I still read realistic fiction. Writers can write what they want, and they do it well. I am saying that ME PERSONALLY...... i dont feel capable enough to accurately represent a time period/culture/race. HOW am I being insulting? I am not calling YOU a bad writer. I am not calling those who write historical or realistic fiction bad writers. I am not calling the authors that I read bad writers.

    Its like saying "my personal choice is to not wear the color red because I feel like I cannot pull it off" and then saying "I find that insulting because there are lots of people who can pull it off"......
     
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  24. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor

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    That's not remotely what I interpreted the statement as meaning.

    Writing realistic fiction without respect for accuracy may well be disrespectful.

    Respect for accuracy, if the setting is not one that I'm already familiar with, requires lots of research.

    I don't want to do the research.

    Writing the fiction without the research is something that I would regard as disrespectful.

    So I'm not gonna.
     
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  25. deadrats

    deadrats Contributor Contributor

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    I haven't seen this, but I would love to hear more about what you mean. I write about real people and places all the time in my fiction. And while I think the standards for fiction have perhaps gotten higher, I'm not so sure this is one of the aspects raising the standards.

    To this thread in general: I'm not suggesting people take on things they know nothing about, but just living can be enough research for realistic or contemporary or literary fiction. I just think it's weird to say it's a respect thing. If you don't feel like you can pull it off or that's not what you want to write, it's totally fine. I'm just saying I don't research for my fiction so much. I've lived a lot of years, and I guess you could call all that research. But that's not the kind of research some of you think is needed. It's okay. I've just got a different view on this one.
     

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