I love fictional literature, and from time to time I try my hand at writing an amateurish fictional piece here on my blog, as well as other places. I learned recently that other people have opinions different from mine about the purpose of fiction in literature, as well as what is considered ethical and moral in fiction writing. So, I write this post to make some brief comments on this, and I welcome your comments, whether favorable or critical.
I agree totally with the following quote which I lifted from an on-line article which you can read in its entirety at this link.
“Most fiction stems from real life, but if you think about the lives of ordinary people, there’s not usually a novel to be had. Real life is messy and complicated and doesn’t follow the rules of fiction; it’s also boring at times…mundane. The trick is to lift characters, events, tragedies, and triumphs from the pages of real life and create a new existence for them—using literary techniques and a good dose of creativity to make them more exciting, more interesting, more disturbing—more worthy of being read.”
According to one of my fiction-writing professors from years ago, imagination, not truth, is the most important factor in writing a good piece of fiction. In my opinion it makes no difference whether the fictional piece is totally true, totally false or part truth and part fiction. In fact, in some cases, it’s good practice to let the reader decide for himself about what is fiction or truth in an article which purports to be fictional, as that builds tension in the reader’s mind. Ethical and moral considerations come into play only when persons, situations, or events in the fictional article can easily be recognized and associated with real-life persons, situations and events. The degree of the offense depends on how your description reflects on the real-life people, situations events and circumstances identified by the fictional article. The writer must be careful not to state or imply something false about a person, especially something that might damage the person’s character.
In summary, real-life situations, which are part of the writer’s experience or that of other people can make for good fiction if the writer lets his imagination do the work. Furthermore, it doesn’t hurt to enhance the real-life story to make it more interesting. As for ethics and moral issues, I try to stay steer clear of describing my characters, situations and events in a way that would make them recognizable and associate them with real-life people, situations and events. That way I hope to avoid ending up in court facing a libel suit.