That’s silly. Of course, they are people. WHY SOME OF MY BEST FRIENDS WRITE FICTION!
Still, I never fail to learn something of direct use during an evening with this good fiction-people. You know you’ve had a very good time, if you go home after a night of fiction-critiquers, and you’re still fired up to go write your brains out until you slump over past midnight.
A young writer recently told me that she didn’t do nonfiction because she didn’t like all that “doing researching.”
This, of course, is silly, too. Even a simple international intrigue novel needs research. Agent April McScotti had better not show up in Sao Paulo the morning after having left Hong Kong the previous evening, by tramp steamer. She had also better not spend pesos, but reals (an annoying fiction writer told me actual Brazilians pronounce it “HAY’-ī”; who’dve guessed!).
Once I imagined becoming a hugely famous essay-writer. Closing my eyes, I imagine this boisterous, elbowing cluster of literary reporters crowding around, shouting jumbled questions at me. Yikes! The more-or-less leader of these noisy pressers waves his buddies quiet and barks out the group’s big-deal question: “All right, all right! You say fiction writers are people, but it all boils down to this: WOULD YOU LET YOUR KID MARRY ONE?!”
Back to evenings with fiction-writers. Getting even one good idea makes a session “worth the ticket.” I often get a half-dozen ideas from these critique nights, all immediately useful. Here’s why. In a group of nonfiction-writing buddies, the critiques cluster around such things as accuracy, and fact-particles. From fiction writers, I get asked things like, “What do you want to leave your reader with?” or “Do you think that works?”
Does the piece work? My usual brainy answer: “Uh, I dun’no’.” Yes, something in the piece didn’t work well and is a good place to restart editing. More than just juggling English, this could mean juggling the theme, or bagging the whole thing and pitching into the trash, wadded!
A writer older than I (not many), and wiser than I (many, many), told me, “All writing is actually fiction, isn’t it?” Good point. That makes all writers brothers/sisters, no?