In compiling and selecting works for Shenandoah, I constantly wonder why people read fiction and especially why authors want to write fiction. In considering this question, I turned to the words of fiction authors in order to understand their motivations for producing their works. Toni Morrison, author of Home, the novel we reviewed for the magazine last semester, sums up the task of fiction writers quite perfectly: “the ability of writers to imagine what is not the self, to familiarize the strange and mystify the familiar, is the test of their power.” Is fiction writing the ultimate challenge for writers, considerably more so than nonfiction? Morrison relates fiction writing as a multifaceted trial for writers.
This process involves great imagination as well as the ability to make mundane ideas interesting and complex ideas relatable. I believe that Morrison and many other authors write fiction for the sheer challenge it presents. Ray Bradbury described the writing process in a more emotional sense: “the answer to all writing, to any career for that matter, is love.” The key to writing and the desire to write is passion.
While I agree that omnipresent challenges and passion are inherent in writing fiction, I also believe that authors write fiction in order to reconcile their own experiences in reality as well as their imaginations. Instead of writing non-fiction about their lives and the issues they have faced, they transcribe this reality into fantasy. I also believe that this can be a form of escapism from reality. For example, books in J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series provide an alternate world for readers, one of magical spells and castles. However, the characters are youths facing the trials and tribulations that plague every teenager and young adult. Rowling creates this fantastic realm while reconciling the true issues of morality, love, and relationships. J.K. Rowling has said, “Sometimes the ideas just come to me. Other times I have to sweat and almost bleed to make ideas come. It’s a mysterious process, but I hope I never find out exactly how it works. I like a mystery, as you may have noticed.” Like Bradbury, Rowling also describes writing as a deep-seeded desire: “I’ll be writing until I can’t write anymore. It’s a compulsion with me. I love writing.”
I agree with Rowling’s description of writing as a compulsion, or a craving. As one of the most popular fiction writers of our generation, Rowling was driven to finish the wildly successful series. She and other fiction writers reconcile reality with fantasy, appealing to the masses. They provide both an escape and a relatable tale for readers.
– Maddie Thorpe