Fiction is both a personal form of expression and way of commenting on events that affect the population at large. Fiction should strive for beauty because it can — so many other forms of writing do not offer that freedom. My fiction writing is not rebellious nor is it experimental but it is definitely influenced by the fast-paced writing forms of the online world.
My work makes use of two opposing writing styles and constantly displays a tension between them: the succinct phrases characteristic of journalistic writing and the metaphoric imagery characteristic of poetry. I like to approach fiction methodically — as I would in journalism, but with feeling — as I would in poetry. My fiction is based off these two types of writing, yet falls somewhere in between them.
When composing fiction, I strive for five main characteristics:
- The beauty of the written word: Fiction is an art form, so I want my words to sound beautiful, regardless of the subject matter. Using words with a history of alternate meanings — and being conscious of those alternate meanings — can help deepen the implications of a story. Words in fiction should sound beautiful together despite the content or subject matter. However, the definition of “beautiful” can vary depending on the story. That being said, images should not be beautiful simply for the sake of being beautiful; they should also play a larger role in the storyline.
- Economy of language: This characteristic fits hand in hand with the previous one. I believe simplicity of language adds to a story’s beauty — the simpler something is conveyed, the more emotionally resonant it is. Portraying beautiful images in minimal words is extremely difficult to do, and is a great accomplishment when it is achieved.
- Engagement in current events: I tend to write fiction that is, naturally, influenced by the events going on around me. I also intentionally create fiction that comments in some way on a relevant societal issue. I’m careful to make that issue a central motif without explicitly stating it. Building up the tension of a problem without outwardly addressing it creates a foreboding tone; not saying something outright can make its presence in fiction even stronger.
- Focus on realism: I almost always write in the realist style. I’m not comfortable writing in genres like fantasy or scientific fiction, but those genres also aren’t conducive to the goal I have to shed light on issues that might be otherwise brushed over. My stories tend to begin quite ominously but in familiar and typically comfortable settings — I want the reader to feel uncomfortable from the beginning without knowing why. Then, slowly, small details are dropped so that discomfort deepens. Through a focus on realism, I try to address topics that might be painful or taboo in casual conversation.
- Multiple narrative planes: I envision my writing as moving in several directions at once, all convening somehow in the ending. My goal is to set up these different narrative planes early on in the text, but write with enough authority that the reader is convinced each has its own purpose. Sometimes these layers are created by integrating different kinds of writing, including poetry, journalism and essays, into the fiction itself. The various layers also help create endings that are somewhat ambiguous but still convey a specific feeling.
My writing is generally traditional. I love writing in the vignette style in particular because it allows me to incorporate poetic phrases naturally into fiction. Vignettes give me the opportunity both to create the beauty that I strive for and to comment on a single issue from a number of different perspectives.
As a young writer, social media and online writing inevitably influence my work, since those are things I engage with on a daily basis. Despite most forms of writing being in a state of such rapid change, however, I believe traditional, printed fiction continues to be crucial today. The mind processes ideas differently when work is read on the printed page versus when it is read on a screen, so the printed page is necessary even as the world of digitally published fiction expands. A goal for my future work is to reconcile these two sides of fiction, always keeping in mind how a story will be interpreted differently depending on whether it’s displayed on a digital or traditional background.
3 thoughts on “A Fiction Writer’s Manifesto”
I am planning on taking time to write a novel in the coming year and I think I need to do this. I don’t have a manifesto.
I’d really suggest writing one! I had to compose this for my final portfolio for a fiction writing course. It’s great to share with others, but also really helps you define your own writing goals!
I think I will. I need to have some anchors that keep me from drifting too far away from the core of what I want to do with my words. Thanks again!