Friday, January 28, 2011

Fiction Friday: Saying The Same Thing In Different Ways

I like what Donald Maass has to say about conveying our passionate opinions: “They are always stronger in the mouths of characters than in the prose of the author.”

I started out writing non-fiction and quickly discovered that I struggled with the teaching style that came with writing a non-fiction book. Obviously my struggle came through in the writing and I only got one book contract out of the countless ideas I pitched over the years. I think it became painfully obvious that I was not cut out for this kind of writing. I needed to follow my heart.

But did that mean that my days of having something to say had to end? Nope. It just meant I wasn't going to be the one saying it anymore. Now my characters got to do it.

In my new novel (coming in June) my main character has some hard lessons to learn about pedestals and authenticity and striving for perfection. Now, I could've written a non-fiction book about these same things but honestly-- truly-- I know that I said it better by telling you a story about someone who was struggling with these things than by writing an essay about my own struggles.

I will close with this quote:
If you want to tell people what to think, write non-fiction. If you want to show them who you are, write fiction.

I hope to keep showing people who I am-- and what I'm learning about life-- through the stories I tell. I'll let my characters do the talking for me.
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Anne Mateer said...

This is why I write fiction, too. In fact, I can name more novels that have changed my thinking (and my acting) by showing me truth than I can non-fiction books that told me truth. I think some people (that would be me!) just see things more clearly through story.

Anonymous said...

I've learned more through stories than non fiction books too (even though I love reading non fiction)The list you wrote last week of your favorites - Lisa Samson's Quaker Summer, was one of those books. What a haunting, inspiring message in that story. Looking forward to your next book!

Zibilee said...

From the moment you began mentioning the details of your new book I have been enthralled with it. I have been thinking about it off and on for a long time and I can't wait to get my copy. I do also believe that a writer captures who they are in their fiction, and I find that to be an interesting concept!

Miriam said...

This reminds me of a Madeleine L'Engle concept, "story as truth." Thanks for posting this.

Wendy Bello said...

Hi Mary Beth,

First, thanks for taking the time and leaving a note on my blog, I was thrilled!

Also wanted to say that I'm getting an e-book of your novel, The Mailbox and I'm really looking forward to reading it.

Have a great weekend!

alli said...

i think i'm better at non-fiction because i am all head no heart! i am working on it, but truthfully like you said i think what you said about being true to your heart, i am feeling like with life i am always trying to be somebody that i'm not, that;s why your book contract didn't get picked like you said it's about authenticity and people can tell a phony only who am I? still trying to figure that out.