Mailbag: Fiction and Non-Fiction, Anxious Readers

In this week’s mailbag post, I’ll be tackling a few different reader comments on various posts. Let’s start with a comment on my post, What’s the Difference Between Fiction and Non-Fiction? I made a few arguments about order, randomness, and structure that differentiate fiction and non-fiction. Here’s what Mary Lou Wynegar said:

I found this to be an excellent article that provoked me to really think deeply… In a world where many are our worst critics I can thoroughly understand why one would be afraid to tell their story in an non-fiction format verses fiction. Fiction is safer. To tell your story you open your self up to being ridiculed, judged, (why didn’t she do this, why didn’t she do that, and so on.) One has to be strong within themselves to know they can withstand the pressures that society may throw their way in knowing that they did the best they could at the time. And that is the whole point, and reason for sharing their story ~ so others may learn from their mistakes, or triumphs.

Thanks, Mary. That’s an aspect of non-fiction I didn’t tackle — the tremendous courage it takes to share it. Not everyone is cut out to be a memoirist; being one necessitates putting the darkest parts of your life out on display for the world to see. Other writers prefer to shadow those aspects of their lives in disguised forms in fiction. That, too, takes courage. But if you think you want to write non-fiction, do heed Mary’s advice here and remember its costs! If you’re ready to be honest with yourself about what has really happened in your life, then non-fiction might be for you.

Now let’s move on to a post I wrote about keeping your reader anxious at all times. One commenter had a very interesting response. S0BeUrself said:

This tactic speaks to the success of gambling. Your book is the slot machine, the reader its player. The more you give your audience, the more they’re likely to stay seated, waiting with baited breath for the big pay-off. Used effectively, it’s almost unethical.

Great way to think about the hook of anxiety in plot, S0BeUrself! Definitely, this power of keeping a reader engaged through keeping him on cliffhangers is very strong and can even be used to manipulate people in the wrong situations. It’s a little fiendish, all these tricks we writers have to hold readers. Let’s just hope they continue to be used in ethical ways!

After the jump: more thoughts on other posts!

Recently I wrote a post called Get Inspired by Other Media. In it I highighted some of the non-writing art forms that can inspire me to write better. One commenter agreed that movies can oddly make us think more about writing. e.lee said:

I often find that watching a movie in the genre that I’m writing often removes writer’s block. Sometimes you need a different stimulus from another source

Thanks, e.lee! I absolutely agree — switching up the artistic genre you are consuming can often refresh your writing sense. It takes new thoughts and new ideas to break through writer’s block, and sometimes the best way to get that is by absorbing another form of art.

Next week I’ll respond to that post I wrote recently called Stand Up For Your Writing! Add in your comments soon!

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