Posted in Of Life's Dramedies, Of Philosophy, Of Psyche, Of Writingly

Of Fiction and Non-Fiction


I’ve been reading a lot of blogs lately about NaNoWriMo, where bloggers are updating their readers on their progress, what is working, what isn’t, et cetera. Even writers who have managed to clock in over 10,000 words, still talk about their frustrations and how finishing the challenge terrifies them. I feel slightly left out. I’ve been attempting NaNoWriMo and Script Frenzy (where you were required to write a 100-page script in the month of April) for around five or six years. Script Frenzy closed down last year and, I’ve decided not to attempt NaNoWriMo this time. I made a choice, because I’m doing National Blog Posting Month or NaBloPoMo and that, for now, seems more realizable and important than attempting a novel. Making the choice got me thinking how I feel about Fiction and Non-Fiction as two distinct modes of operation in writing. There are a few, rather unpleasant conclusions I’ve reached. I don’t believe they apply to these two genres on a universal level, but they certainly do to me personally.

I read Fiction much, much more than Non-Fiction. If that hadn’t been the case, if it was only cold, factual writing that was offered to me, I would not have cared about language and the imagination at all. Fiction is much more proliferate and lasting when compared to Non-Fiction. One of the reasons for that is, it is more universal, versatile and can be modified in terms of age and background. Imagine an illiterate farmer in the 19th century. He may not have understood the jargon-laden rhetoric of the local politician but, put it in a song, and it might have meant something to him. It may have been the musicality of the words, the music itself, that may have successfully given the impression that the more intimidating, formal speech of the politician wanted to convey.

There are some natural assumptions about Non-Fiction. You expect something simple, direct, logical and most obviously, truthful. Let’s say you wanted to analyze a poem in your literature class by writing your response in the form of a poem. Creative, yes, but even if your teacher is one of the most adventurous educators ever, she will, most definitely, smile condescendingly and tell you to obey the rules.

Of course, there is imaginative Non-Fiction. Sometimes, on a more literal level, where all your factual writing is quite deliberately, a lie. But, also when you employ literary tropes and techniques to convey your facts. You may even write your essay in the form of a poem(though Dorothy Parker’s โ€œResumeโ€ isn’t an actual resume!) and yet have it technically considered an essay and not a poem. You may create personas, fictive settings, conflict, or even an Aristotelian plot-curve.

With my writing here, I try to be as conversational as possible. How I write here is how I speak. My moods get reflected in what I write. When I’m feeling chirpy, I write with the deliberate intention of making you laugh (or, like yesterday, dance!). When I’m feeling sombre (like today, for I have a terrible cold and fever), I write with a more serious tone. The subject matter, like nearly all subject matter, could be dealt with in both ways.It is not the thing, it is how you look at the thing.

What is making me slightly envious of NaNoWriMo writers is that while they have their brains fermenting with ideas for different characters, different worlds, I’m stuck with only myself as writing material. Of course, I could have just done NaBloPoMo as a series, describing my moods on every single day. Something like Of Chirpin’, Of Dread, Of Wanting to Hit my Head with a Hammer. The Feeling Series! Where you read the mind of a person that swings from one mood to another and back. And back again. Like a monkey. Brought to you by MMM – Mind Matter Money where we get you to pay us for your problems!

Writing can be a lonely activity. Doubly so, when your only character is you.

But, I’ll still soldier on. With the response I’ve had lately, whatever I do here, seems to be working. I may not have a novel, or a factual understanding of myself, by the end of this month. What I will have is what I’ve had for the past five months of blogging here. An unknowable, intangible thing that somehow binds you and me.


Writer, Blogger, Kate Bush Fanatic

12 thoughts on “Of Fiction and Non-Fiction

  1. Nice to find a different take on the Fiction v. Nonfiction debate. I lamented in my own post on the subject how I can never find time for fiction lately, but I do believe some non-fiction can be just as imaginative and eye-opening. Also, congrats on being ‘Freshly Pressed,’ looking forward to finding more great posts here!

  2. Have you done much with the genre of creative nonfiction? I think it is what you are getting at when you talk about imaginative nonfiction. While you are still stuck with only yourself, I find it easier to write than fiction (after all, you already know your plot and “characters”), and recounting bits of your life or telling about other nonfiction events creatively reads really well in blogs!

    Keep up the good work with NaBloPoMo!

    1. Yes, I was using “creative” and “imaginative” non-fiction interchangeably. While the majority of blogs out there would fall in that category, where many of them make up for very interesting reading, my writing in general could never be that. My life is very boring and the interesting things that do happen on rare occasions, leave me too embarrassed! I’m even embarrassed by good things. With my blogging, I just take a small element of what is going on and then reflect on it. So, it isn’t a life blog in the strictest sense, but to an extent, it is.

      You keep up the good work with NaNoWriMo too! The updates on your blog are very interesting and useful. I will definitely try the pantster approach at some point.

  3. I love that last sentence and I get what you mean I find writing my life easier even if embellished easier than writing something totally unrelated. I would have loved to do a novel but simply am not ready x

    1. “Not ready!” That is it! We’re simply not ready! Blogging is working for now, so why go try something else? NaBloPoMo is already more work than I imagined! I’m sure it must be for you too.

      1. yes exactly and i have a stinking cold one wakes up and thinks urgh no i cant do this lol, actually i am doing the photo challenge to which forces me to go out which in this weawther is an urgh moment, but forcing myself to go wander and write hehe xx

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