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One of the most obvious reasons you should write fiction is the vast amount of characters you can discover. In non-fiction or poetry, more often than not, we draw from our lives to create realistic or idealised versions of the people around us.
In fiction, any person can exist, and while sometimes writers will borrow traits from people they know, they are not limited by them. Characters can be a mashed up version of a childhood best friend or someone, unlike anyone you’ve ever met.
Building up entire lives around the people in our novels, assigning them strengths, weaknesses, loved ones, and enemies allows us unlimited playtime. Fiction writers worry a bit less about whether or not a character is being represented authentically simply because that character is there to serve a purpose.
Building fictional characters on the page can also help you build exciting characters in your more serious work. Memoir characters, for example, can benefit from the detailed descriptions awarded to fictional characters and poetic characters; though often less fleshed out, they could be enhanced with a clever description.
Being able to write about both fictional characters and real people makes you a better-rounded writer and more equipped to take on all of the publishing world.
Dialogue is something you get most practice at with novel writing. Before I started working on my novel, I rarely used dialogue in my work. I mainly wrote poetry and didn’t necessarily see the point in adding it to my pieces.
Giving people a script helps you separate or assign thoughts to their correct owners. In a novel, it is always clear exactly who is speaking. In a memoir, thoughts can get messy, especially when our opinions are shaped by those around us.
Becoming more comfortable with dialogue and introducing it into our nonfiction is an excellent practice that will not only help characterisation in your other mediums but will be impactful in separating thoughts from people in a manageable way.
One of the best things I’ve learned from writing fiction is discovery.
I will often spend hours falling down a research hole to make sure that I describe things correctly. Learning to discover new information outside of your immediate sphere of knowledge will help your writing.
Not only will you become more informed on what you are writing about but making research a part of your creativity will help you grow more comfortable with the researching process.
Non-fiction writers will already know how valuable research is, but previously in my poetry, I had never implemented research or discovery. I only wrote about what I knew. Because of that, I never quite tapped deeply into all of my writing possibilities.
Learning to follow my passion and research led to some interesting poetry. It’s safe to say I won’t be ignoring this phase again.
When I’m writing a poem, I know to research a bit about what I’m writing. Information enriches not only the writing but also the reading.
I don’t know, for example, how much research Pablo Neruda put into ‘Ode to Salt’, but I’d love to introduce it as a case study.
Neruda thinks deeply about salt in this poem, highlighting both its smallness and its magnitude, taking the time to think deeply about something as mundane as salt resulted in one of my favourite poems.
4. Secret Themes
Fiction helped me discover a lot about the inner workings of my mind. Often things that had impacted me throughout the year emerged in my novel. At first, I didn’t always recognise themes, but I can see the different timelines of my life in every chapter of my draft now that I’m looking back on it.
I can see the frustration in sections about politics. I can see the discussions of gender inequality. These larger themes are buried in a line or two of dialogue. A quick one-off lesson, but learning to recognise the reasons why you put certain morals or conversations into your book can be impactful. Perhaps extracting those morals and writing about them in your other work could help you more fully understand your inner beliefs.
A passage about a character feeling homesick in my novel led to a poem about my hometown. Let your words, emotions, interests and passions emerge in a few different forms. I promise you won’t regret the exploration.
5. Hidden Self
I’ve been hinting at it in the last point, but I’ll say it more clearly now.
Writing a made-up story can teach you a lot about yourself. I didn’t think I was interested in politics until I began writing my story; all of a sudden, I’m 50,000 words into a politics driven high fantasy novel.
It might not always be as extreme as it was in my case. Often we can find the hidden version of ourselves exploring things we didn’t think interested us.
Exploring the hidden self could lead you to politics. It could also lead you to romance, to friendship, to an impossible to list amount of things.
Writing whatever you want with no limitations can be empowering and put you in touch with things that you perhaps didn’t feel you had the freedom to overtly explore.
I encourage you to write fiction, long or short, simply so that you can explore your inner world without the confines of having to write realistically. I think you’ll find something really interesting, empowering and inspiring.
As always, I cannot wait to see you on the bookshelf.