Monday, May 18, 2009

Fiction versus Non-Fiction

Recently, I was told by someone in my past career that there was no redeeming value to reading fiction because it has no basis in truth. He asked me, why read something that never happened?

To say a fictitious story is about something that has never happened is a blanket statement and untrue. In my book, The Catalyst, the main character and a secondary character have been raped. It is true that there are women who have been raped, and I depicted the reactions of my characters to the occurrences that transpired as accurately as possible. To do this, I spoke with an ex-detective for the Kansas City Police Department.

My story is set in the Mid-West surrounding the riverboat gambling casino industry. I worked for a casino for nine months to research the daily operation. Much of the information had to be left out because the story is about the characters and not the casinos. What is there, I believe is fairly accurate, but it’s still a work of fiction, and I wouldn’t want it any other way for a number of reasons.

My second book, Addiction, is about a recovering alcoholic. There are real people who are abusive drinkers. I made the character in Addiction as realistic as I could with the help of people more knowledgeable than I am. This story is also about a serial killer. We have all read the headlines or watched the news about these types of murderers. The one in my book may not be real, but he is realistic.

Most fiction authors write about real life, and since we do, our readers have to be able to relate to our characters. I once wrote about a true happening, and I was told by an author leave it out because it was too unbelievable.

Now, you tell me if you read fiction, non-fiction or both, and which you prefer. As a reader, I’ve read both. Even in non-fiction not everyone agrees about the events. I will look forward to reading your comments.

Have a great week.



Anonymous said...

Great post, Sandy.

I will read either. If my mind needs a break from reality, then I'll reach for a fiction book. If I'm in the mood for a little history or researching for a story, then I'll grab a non-fiction book. I have a collection of early 20th century books that are of both non-fiction and fiction and love them all.

Liena Ferror

She said...

I read both. Sometimes I need the fiction for an escape from reality. Non-fiction teaches you more about a certain subject but fiction can also teach you. If you read historical fiction, you learn about a time period. If you read contemporary fiction, you may learn about a job or a place you didn't know anything about. There is good in both.

Sandy said...

Thanks, Liena, for stopping by.

Have you ever noticed if your books disagree on aspects of history?


Sandy said...

Thanks, She said, for stopping by.

I agree there is good in both, and you can learn from both.

Carol Ericson said...

I read both fiction and non-fiction, but honestly, I don't read fiction for its accuracy about real life. I read fiction for an escape. If it were based too much on reality, we'd end up with some boring stories!

kt bishop said...

I write about a specific time period rather than non-fiction. Fiction is just cool.....

Sandy said...

Thanks for coming by Carol. I also read fiction to escape.

Sandy said...

Thanks, K.T.

I think fiction is harder to write than non-fiction.

Anonymous said...

Why watch a movie or a TV show that is fiction. They are usually based on actual events.
The names/places have been changed to protect the innocent(Dragnet)
Keep going Sandy!!!

Sandy said...

Thanks for stopping by, Pat. Good comment.

Z(Aasiyah/Nolwynn) said...

Hey Sandy

Good post. I read fiction for escape but I also read non-fiction, mostly as a way to gather knowledge for my fiction. I do agree with the fact that fiction can show you a lot of things. Historical fiction paints the picture of a time period and how people lived then. Contemporary can showcase an aspect of life/work that you never thought you'd see/experience for yourself.

The thing to remember is that fiction is always based on some aspect of the real. Like you said, fiction needs to be realistic, and while it is an 'imagined' reality as opposed to non-fiction, both are presenting you a picture of an aspect of reality. The comment about reading fiction as something that doesn't exist can also stem from the fact that fiction has fantasy and paranormal stories, which don't exist per se.



Sandy said...

Hey, Z, thanks for your comment. As usual, you are right on target.



Chiron said...

I enjoy both fiction and nonfiction. Though, ironically, some nonfiction is based on theory, so... does that mean it's fiction? *grin*

The blockbuster movie, The Da Vinci Code was based on a number of nonfiction 'theory' books. Several of which my husband and I had read prior to the publication of the novel. There was also a long lawsuit as the authors of the book, Holy Blood, Holy Grail, felt the author had ripped off their theory for his novel. Hmmm... So fiction and nonfiction are more related than the person in your past career might like. *smile*

Winston Churchill said, "History is written by the victors," and sure enough a number of nonfiction books are based on someone's opinion. Much of science is disputed a century later so what was 'truth' at one point might indeed become 'fiction' at another.

I'll stick with Einstein, "Imagination is more important than knowledge."

Robert Heinlein created many inventions in his fiction--the waterbed being a prime example--which years later became fact. Scientists today are still trying to invent devices to bring about the future envisioned in Star Trek and Star Wars.

Imagination is usually the parent of truth, for it is what we imagine that we strive to bring forth.

So there's that.

Smiles and hugs,

Sandy said...

You're wonderful, Chiron. That's why I follow your blog. Remember when in the comic books, they were traveling through space to reach the moon. That was fiction until it became reality.


Anonymous said...

Hi Sandy!

I read both, fiction and non-fiction. One way of looking at it is that most stories are based on real life, or include some form of it, they just cut out the boring bits and replace with imagination.

If you think about it, a character should be able to express their emotions, share their dreams, nightmares and fantasies, to make them realistic.

So, where does this realism come from? The author, or if it's something they haven't experienced themselves, the author's research - from real people in-the-know.

And to research, you need facts gathered from non-fiction and real life experiences. Even Superman, with his super powers, has to be a likable, believable character.

If I may say so, not reading fiction because it hasn't happened, sounds a tad lazy to me! LOL

Each to their own. :)

Sandy said...

Hi Angie,
So glad you made it here.

I totally agree with you.

I think in fiction, our characters sound more real than non-fiction people because we learn what they're about.

Thanks for stopping by.