Marcus Appel, an Austrian psychologist, compared viewers who watch news and documentaries with viewers who prefer television drama or comedy. He found out that those who like watching fictional drama or comedy have a stronger sense of justice than those who like watching news and documentary shows. In television fiction, people are either rewarded or punished for their wrongdoings. Appel believes that regular exposure to fictional stories about justice leads people to believe that the world is a just place.
Canadian psychologists Raymond Mar and Keith Oatley conducted a test to confirm if fiction improves people’s sympathy and compassion toward others. In their test, readers who immersed themselves in fictional books performed better on the empathy scale. Thus, fiction helps in “making the world a better place” for it “improves interpersonal understanding” (Gottschall 2012).
In China, science fiction was banned until 2007 when the government finally approved the country’s first science fiction and fantasy convention. Fantasy writer Neil Gaiman attended it and asked an official why the government allowed the convention. The official told Gaiman that the Chinese did not know how to imagine, and thus, could not create, innovate, or invent. The Chinese government decided to send a delegation to Apple, Microsoft, and Google to find out about the people creating these innovative and unique products. The delegation found out that they all read science fiction during childhood (Gaiman 2013). The Chinese government finally faced the fact of fiction: people need it.
Basic Facts about Fiction
In most instances, the real world provides the words that constitute fiction. French author Victor Hugo noticed the Greek word for fate carved on a little nook of the Notre Dame Cathedral. A tormented soul must have engraved this word, according to his imagination. That one word found led Hugo to write The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1831). In its unabridged version, the novel is more than 500 pages.
The God of Small Things (1997) written by the Indian author Arundhati Roy reveals how “small things” expose the “big things” that society accepts without question. In fiction, you bring the readers to a new place, meet new people, or witness events simply by reading. Your task, as a writer, is to find such places, people, or events. Where would you find them? Look around, and there they are — in the real world. Slices of life or reality serve as inspiration to most fiction writers. This means that such reality has personally touched the writer. Then it becomes the seed or the starting point for writing something fictional.
Here are some examples of starting points for writing fiction based on facts:
There are unlimited inspirations for fiction, just as there are different people, places, and occasions. A chat with a friend can give you an idea for a newspaper report. Perhaps you dream of living an adventurous life in some unknown place with monstrous or mystical people and animals.
Changes in people’s lifestyle, changing social attitudes, or technological advances are great sources for writing fiction. Business or corporate culture is another common source. Watching the news makes you a witness to social upheavals in other countries. These are sources of fictionalized stories.
The Elements that Make Up Fiction
As in real life, fictional life contains people who live in a particular place and time. They are engaged in actions to resolve specific tensions or conflicts. The writer weaves a story about them that pertains to certain themes about life. The writer assumes a certain position or attitude about the story and chooses who is actually telling the story.
In fiction, the writer is not necessarily the storyteller. By picturing all the elements of the story, readers exit reality to enter a fictional world made real by the writer.
Character and Characterization: The people in fiction
A story often revolves around a protagonist (the leading character) and an antagonist (the character opposing the protagonist). The short story requires focusing on a single quality of the character, for instance, his or her honesty. In a novel, many facets of the character may be explored.
A fictional character must feel authentic and credible. They may be characterized in such a way that readers can identify with them.
Fictionists commonly use the following types of characters: