As a people we once took reality for granted. Now that things like “truth” and “facts” and even “history” are being subjectively subverted in the endless maze and malaise of social media, creating fiction for its own sake may seem not only obsolete, but counterproductive.
Why do readers need to “escape” into “fantasy” when they’re not even sure they can believe what they read in allegedly “non-fiction” periodicals? That line is so blurry you can’t even trip over it anymore. You just walk right through it, unaware you’ve even crossed from one side to the next.
“Fake news” stories still run rampant on the Internet, many concocted by people with an underlying agenda. The separation of satire from propaganda has become a nearly impossible task.
Most fiction has no purpose other than to entertain. Most non-fiction has no other purpose than to inform.
But if both are mining one’s imagination, what exactly is the difference? Does it even matter anymore?
Eyes and Ears of the Beholder
Christians maintain The Bible is a true story meant to enlighten our species, even save it. Non-believers question its validity and dismiss it as an epic fable, or even a parable, but not “gospel truth.”
If there is only one reality, which one trumps the other?
It’s all a matter of individual perspective. Basically, if you’re relating a tale with enough conviction, it comes alive in the minds of the audience – but only if they’re receptive to its message and content.
The same is true of fiction, meaning creative fiction – i.e. short stories, novels, plays, etc. These days, you need to actually explain the context, or so it seems.
Whether your story is set in ancient Greece or futuristic Mars, you as the author need to believe in your own story. You need to tell it as if it’s actually happening, or did happen, or will happen. In other words, you need to be a really, really, really convincing liar. And your readers will adore you for it.
However, if your story is so outlandish that it defies credibility, even within a boundless context, your readers will turn on you. Whatever version of reality you’re creating, you need to make it come off as if it’s the only reality that matters in the moment. Or even that it’s quite possibly an alternative reality, taking place in a different dimension, but no less tangible than our own, at least to its participants and voyeurs.
Remember, as a fiction writer, you don’t need to adhere to the same game rules as a press agent, even if it does sometimes seem they seem to be borrowing yours…