I am dedicating this post to my beloved cat, Poe, who died on May 22nd from cancer. He often sat near me on my desk while I typed, or in my lap, getting in my way, when I was in a chair or on my bed, working stories out longhand. In author Rita Mae Brown’s different kind of writing manual, Starting From Scratch, she tells us writers should have cats. We should all have one on our desks.
I’ve had cats forever and Poe was one of the best. He was loving and sweet and funny. All the things a good inspirational cat should be. And he loved me as I loved him.
I have two remaining cats and I love them, too. But neither of them care for the writing process.
Webster’s defines fiction as: 1. A making up of imaginary happenings: feigning. 2. anything made up or imagined, as a statement , story, etc. 3. literary narratives, collectively, which portray imaginary characters or events, specifically novels and short stories.
There is no definition found in that dictionary for nonfiction. Does this make nonfiction insignificant in the writing world?
Fiction is fun to write. Well, it can be. It’s making stuff up, building worlds, creating people who live and breath and have problems and solve them. It’s writing down day dreams – with total control of the story.
Fiction takes us to places we’d never see, fantastic worlds sprung from an author’s imagination. Readers meet and learn to empathize with people we will never encounter in real life. Fiction takes us for a ride.
Nonfiction can take us for rides, too. It takes us to places we’ve never been but could travel to if we wished. They’re real places. Real people live in those places. Reality can be as fascinating as fiction.
Research is often necessary in writing fiction and, to me, that’s part of the fun. We’re told to write what we know. Research supplies the knowing. We take what we learn into our stories. We use the research, we mix it with what’s in our imaginations to write credible storylines.
Researching a nonfiction subject is a completely different ball game. In fiction, it’s a jumping off point, always seeing how the information affects your characters. In nonfiction its all information, all research. The challenge is to soak up the information and rewrite it in your own words and do more than rephrase lines from Wikipedia.
We need to look at nonfiction creatively, especially in memoirs and biographies. We can make nonfiction as fun to read as fiction. We need to make facts interesting without boring the hell out of the readers with how much we know.
When I began the adult nonfiction book I’m writing now, I thought, this is going to be fun – and easy. I’ll just Google all the facts and statistics and write what strikes me as funny.
A snap, right?
Yeah, not so much.
As I reach the end of writing the first draft, I’m wondering how entertaining the book will be. I suppose time will tell, come the book launch in November.
I wish Poe was here to inspire me.