One of the great things about writing fiction is you get paid for lying. After all, fiction is nothing more than a campfire story with layers of metaphor, simile and L-M-N-onomatopoeia. But when you get down to the yin and yang of it, the characters, setting, timeline, and plot are all made up.
In other words, lies.
Last time, following my sublime post on sneezing, I promised to address author intrusion.
But I lied. I’m not going to do that.
Instead, I’m going to show a list of my 10 favorite novels from a journal entry in 1999. After the title and author, I’ll give a brief description of why they were my favorites over 13 years ago.
- The Prince of Tides — Pat Conroy
- I Know This Much is True — Wally Lamb
- IT — Stephen King
- Foundation — Isaac Asimov
- Calculating God — Robert J. Sawyer
- Bag of Bones — Stephen King
- Goodbye, Mr. Chips — James Hilton
- The Martian Chronicles — Ray Bradvury
- The Sparrow — Mary Doria Russel
- Foucault’s Pendulum — Umberto Eco
Now, here is why I loved each one, exactly as I wrote it back then.
- Prince of Tides because it’s hilarious and tragic simultaneously and the main character loves football and a psychiatrist.
- I Know This Much is True deals with mental illness, twins and is hilarious and disturbing
- IT is about kids and their struggles against an unforeseen force that is just a giant spider from outer space
- Foundation is about Trantor and Preem Palvor, what more to say?
- Calculating God deals with whether God exists, it’s funny, thought-provoking and touching
- Bag of Bones is a beautiful story about grief and ghosts, also very sexy, one of King’s best.
- Goodbye, Mr. Chips is about a teacher and I love stories about kids in school.
- The Martian Chronicles is about a dying planet and its incredible imagery, and the poetry of Bradbury’s fiction
- The Sparrow is literary SF with a heavy “loss of faith” overtone and the priest is so tragic.
- Foucault’s Pendulum is splendid and deep and sardonic.
These were my thoughts back then. Are they my thoughts now? More or less, although I’d completely forgotten about Wally Lamb’s novel.
Now, here’s the other thing about this list: One of these entries is “wrong”.
In fact, you might say I did something really crooked …
But how can it be wrong if it’s an opinion? Well, I know the journal was written in 1999. But something was changed.
I don’t know why. But if you can figure out what is “wrong” with my list, or if you’re even just intrigued by what’s wrong, then I have succeeded in another crucial element of fiction: mystery.
So? Did this list help me? Did it do any good? Was it worth it? No. Not really. And that’s the takeaway here: If you want to succeed in creative writing, then my blog will teach you everything not to do.
Peace, from Keith
Copyright © 2012, Alan Keith Parker, for what it's worth.