19 April 2011

Smart Fiction

I recently finished reading Stephen King's "Herman Wouk is Still Alive"

I loved it, but I've come to realize that some people cannot separate the role of fiction from that of political motivation. They have a problem with King's depiction of the characters in this story. If you read the story at that site, please read the comments as well to understand what I mean. Some readers get really offended by the characters we depict if they feel that the author isn't genuinely knowledgable of the "type" of people they characterize in their "fiction". My answer to them: IT'S FICTION!

I think we all differ in preference to style and language, but I don't care too much for stories filled with a lot of big words and intellectual knowledge that may distract from the story. I don't have the patience for it, not that I don't appreciate the work. I'm sure a lot of it is really fine work. However, when I read fiction, I want to be pulled in, immersed. I want it to flow through my mind just like I was swimming along the words, moving with the current and fighting the rapids at the end.

I read a story one time and my biggest problem with it was that the author used a metaphor by paraphrasing a passage from the bible. I've never read the bible, so I had no earthly idea what she was talking about and the metaphor made no sense to me. Her following two paragraphs were lost in translation as well.

I think it's healthy to assume that your reader is not going to appreciate your intellect as a fiction writer if you are not writing at the level of your narrator. If you can't dumb down your narratives, then you definitely will lose some readers. As my sister once said, "You don't have to prove to me that you are smart, prove that you can write a story that I might understand!"

It's smart fiction to dumb down your writing. You don't want your poor, fat, uneducated protagonist cogitating on how to dissipate the mass fortune she's acquired through winning the lottery. She can just think about how she's gonna spend all that cash!


  1. You'll find my comments on King there as well (a few times). Not quite a flame war, just a healthy exchange. :)

  2. It’s true there are a lot of people that delight in picking any holes they can in fiction (especially ‘new’ writers fiction). As has been said many times, it’s a story and what is true in the story is true in the story. Just shrug and count to ten…


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