What is the point of fiction?
We all love to write and I’d wager that most of us aren’t going to stop anytime soon. There are ups and downs, days when we can’t seem to stop writing and days when we can’t seem to start. But despite all of that, we’re committed to this crazy pursuit. I’d like to ask all of us a question in light of that fact:
Why do you write every day? Why do you sit around creating make believe worlds and populating them with all sorts of characters? Why do you expect to make a living off such a strange activity? Why don’t you do something more “productive” or “useful” with your time?
Now, I hope those questions don’t offend you. I certainly don’t believe writing fictional stories is unproductive or useless. I do, however, want to provoke you to thought, just in case you haven’t considered these questions before. As a writer, you should know why you’re writing. You should have a goal larger than simply finishing your next book.
What’s yours? Why do you write?
In a very broad sense, I think all of us might answer that question in very much the same way. The specifics will be different of course, but when you strip away the top layers, the foundation will be similar.
We all write with the very simple purpose of changing the way people think. Even if we don’t realize it, that’s our ultimate goal. We write stories so that people will read them, of course, but what effect do we expect them to have? Doesn’t it go beyond mere entertainment or escapism? Every story we interact with changes us at some fundamental level. The characters infect us, the plot sparks a new line of thinking, the setting captivates our imagination; something changes when we consume stories. Something changes in your readers when they consume your stories.
Now think about this: what effects are your stories producing in your readers?
You wield incredible power. What are you using it to accomplish? If the point of fiction is to change the way people think, what are you changing about your readers’ thinking?
If you can come up with answers to these questions, you’ll have your goal. You’ll have something that drives you to write even when you don’t feel like it. Even when the words just don’t seem to flow, you’ll force them out because you have a purpose. Writing is fun, sure. But it’s also work. Work with a profound purpose.
Don’t miss out on your purpose as a writer. That purpose is a flame that will fuel countless books if you can tap into it. If you’re only writing because it’s fun, your motivation will slacken eventually. You’ll give up and look for something else. But if you’re driven by passion, by an all-consuming desire to get something done, you’ll never stop. Even better, that passion will bleed through into your stories and your readers will feel it. They’ll be hungry for more even if they don’t know why.
So, what is the point of fiction? The point of fiction is no less than to change the world, one person at a time.
The pen is indeed mightier than the sword. Use yours wisely.
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R.F. Dunham writes with one purpose: to take you places you've never been before. That might be a distant fantasy land, the far reaches of space, the future of earth, or simply to an idea you've never encountered. A student of language and culture, Dunham's stories will pull you into complex worlds that challenge your perception of your own surroundings.
After working for over two years as a professional ghostwriter, the time has finally come for him to release his first full-length novel published in his own name, The Other Side of Hope. His short story, “Just a Drop,” was recently published in Nebula Rift Science Fiction magazine and an interactive version of the story is currently in beta testing. When he’s not writing, R.F. can be found playing the trumpet, writing his thesis in Arabic linguistics, or hiking in the mountains of Virginia.
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