I posed a question in the last post--"What is the job of a fiction writer?"--but had to let the question sit for a couple days. Blame it on the day job. Nearly 90 hours in a week and a half, and I'm tuckered out. Slept most of Sunday, and now I'm disoriented. Ever get that way?
Anyway, back to the point.
In my small corner of the world, there's been discussion about the role of a Christian writer, but that was countered with the goals of secular writers, and then there was the question, "Why are we even talking about this?" Good question.
Several years ago, I used to meet for weekly critique sessions with a writer almost four decades older than I am, and with far different goals with his fiction. He felt the compulsion of time. He had stories to tell, and he wanted me to help him tell them. Unfortunately, though we could respect each other's perspective, ability, and chosen genre, we were not good writing buddies. That, and we each had issues.
When I asked him why all his main characters were alcoholic loners, he said, "Maybe I'll start writing about something else when I'm done writing about this."
So, perhaps some writers use writing as therapy, a way to work through fictional versions of themselves, their problems, their questions, and perhaps find an answer they can use in the real world.
This same writer, however, said he had the ability to write from the perspective of a character whose beliefs ran counter to his own, and he showed me a sample. The character was me, but the tone--the same as the tone in much of his other work--was bitter, snarky, superior, and the perspective he assigned me missed me by a mile.
Which gives rise to another question: How divorced can a writer be from his work? I don't think artists of any stripe can be distanced from their work. They're invested in it. Their fingerprints, sweat, blood, and DNA are all over it. How it's formed is a direct result of how they think, reason, put puzzles together, pull threads apart--and why.
"But with distance comes objectivity!"
Objectivity doesn't necessarily require distance. It just requires honesty. An objective writer can look at his work and see the flaws, the ones that go beyond goofed-up grammar or misspelled words. He can see the repetition of traits that make characters flat and predictable (boring); the gaping holes in the plot; the misplaced or missing details; the rambling descriptions of minutiae that don't move the story forward; the authorial intrusions that overlay the story with his own social, political, religious, and philosophical beliefs. He can recognize when his fiction moves from entertainment to sermon.
I think I'm gonna hang this on my wall: "Thou shalt not promise a novel but deliver a personal manifesto."
I believe fiction not only can but should heal, inform, entertain, reveal, tell the truth, challenge, confront, intrigue, but the writer's overarching goal should be the telling of a story.
This post isn't as focused as I intended when I started it, but that's probably because I'm still unfocused (only been awake a little less than an hour). Got an opinion? State it. I'm gonna go get some more rest.