Sunday 29 July 2012

Writing and our World View

In this series, I’m taking the bull by the horns here… stretching out my neck …. putting my life on the line… and if I survive all this and other dangerous metaphors, then I might take a bit of a risk. 

Let’s discuss how our World View affects our writing and reading.

For those who aren’t quite sure about what I’m talking about, World View (often shortened to WV – yeah! OK! Not the car!) is defined in as follows:

n. In both senses also called Weltanschaung.
1. The overall perspective from which one sees and interprets the world.
2. A collection of beliefs about life and the universe held by an individual or a group.

It’s how we try and make sense of the universe that we live in. It’s what makes you tick, what makes you think the way you do, the underlying foundation of and motivation behind all your decisions and opinions.  It effects all our daily lives and collectively, it is the most powerful influence in businesses, churches, community groups, institutions and politics.

Let’s face it, no matter what you read, no matter what you write, no matter what you hear & see in the media, no matter what you think about, no matter what decisions are made, no matter where you turn it will always be there….
…that ghostly spectre in the background called Weltanschaung.  A bit like Poltergeist, but far more common and at times, almost as scary. But unless we want to sound erudite, let's just call it our WV.

In many people, it’s represented by their religion or their faith – whether theistic, atheistic or somewhere in-between. Sometimes we’re not aware that it’s there, and we assume that everyone else should think the same way that we do. It’s powerful and all-pervading.
It’s shaped by our upbringing (or our reaction to it) our schooling and any higher education, but especially by our life experiences.

It undergirds our philosophy of life, which in turn is the material we build our lifestyle decisions on. 

I knocked together an illustration of this:

So now we all, hopefully, understand it and acknowledge its existence.
In my next post, I’ll discuss some of the implications this WV has for our reading and writing .

Stay tuned…..

Sunday 8 July 2012

Historical Fiction vs Historical Fact - Part 5

Links & Opinions

An interesting article: "Why Fiction is Good for You" by Jonathan Gottschall

(Dr Gottshall is an English professor at Washington and Jefferson College, writing for The Boston Globe.)
It underlines some of the things we've been discussing here.
One thing that worries me here, however. It's the impression that lying is a good thing.
Yes, appealing to the imagination can be a more powerful change agent than appealing to the intelligence. But we cross the line when it affects our major decisions and leads to disaster. An example of this is Hollywood's  glamorization of casual sex. Studies and reports from sex counselors have shown that the best sexual fulfillment is found (especially for women) in committed relationships. It's the consummation of a relationship, not the basis for it. Our family law courts are a tragic witness to this fact.
Yes, we have to grow up, and learn to know when to turn on the imagination, and when to turn it off so we can function properly in life.

A link to a series of audio interviews entitled "Writing Fiction vs Non-fiction"

The introduction says it all:

"When you read a piece of nonfiction, you naturally expect that  you’re reading the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.  Right?  So how would you feel if you found out that the author of an essay you’re reading was taking certain liberties with the facts to make the piece more captivating?  Would you feel betrayed?  Or wouldn’t you care?  In this hour, we’ll examine the question of creativity in creative nonfiction.  How much is too much?"

I especially found the interview with Jonathan Lethem interesting. Here he talks about his role as a novelist, which he explores in his new book, "The Ecstasy of Influence: Nonfictions, etc."

The line between fact and fiction sometimes blurs, doesn't it!
Does this give us writers the licence to lie? After all, you have to get the reader to read the facts in the first place. If the bare facts are too boring to read, they should be ... well ... sexed up a little bit. Right?
What worries me here is that if we are "sprung" after ... you know ... using that little white lie to spice it up a bit ... just that bit of exaggeration ... if that's ever exposed, even just once, we lose our credibility.
Getting a reputation for absolute honesty is hard work, but it pays long term dividends. A really good writer can, in my view, present the story as it really happened, but in an engaging manner that doesn't compromise his/her integrity.
Writers must be up front about whether they're writing fact or fiction.

I particularly like this quote from a posting in a discussion at :

Leon Garfield said, 
"The historian, if honest, gives us a photograph; the storyteller gives us a painting."

The post then goes on to say:
Give me your opinion. The historian gives us the facts, but the storyteller gives us fictional characters with real life experiences of actual people and true events in history. I read this historical fiction novel all about how the people tried to survive during world war 2 and how it affected them. The author incorporated real experiences that he got through research. I was surprised how much I learned about how that war had gotten started and how Hitler deceived the people at the very beginning. It was an eye-opener to me.

An interesting comment here from editor A. J. Sobczak called "Fiction or Non-Fiction -- True or False?

Note how many of these articles and interviews recognise that what we always accept as "Fact" is, in fact, a different form of the absolute truth coloured by our perceptions, belief systems, prejudices and sometimes our private agendas.

In future postings, I intend to discuss the role of our World View in writing.

Finally, a blog post from author Kaye Dacus.

I took note when she said that she "doesn't read a lot of non-fiction by choice."
In fact her " fiction to nonfiction ratio (not counting research books, remember) is at least 100:1 (100 fiction books to every 1 nonfiction book)."

I guess there's no surprises there. It just highlights the influence that fiction has on the mind of millions of readers -- for good or for not-so-good.

That's all in this series for the moment. Maybe we'll get back to it if any worthwhile & relevant info comes up or you have a question that needs a longer answer than a mere comment.