Saturday, October 24, 2009

Stranger Than Fiction?

Most writers agree that the basic tenet of fiction writing is simple: take a lie and make it true for the reader. Of course, controversy arises shortly afterwards. The problem? Not everyone agrees on just how close to fact that fiction must be. As writers, do we have to follow some of the existing framework of real life in our stories? Or can we invent everything from scratch? In essence, I guess I’m talking about creative license, and if there’s such a thing as going “too far.”

We all know that creative license means the alteration of reality or facts for the sake of a story. And while it’s easy to see why some writers take issue with changing past events in a historical novel, the lines get blurred when considering the fantasy genre. Take Stephenie Meyer, for example (yes, I just threw out the SM bomb). Even though her Twilight series is millions of readers own personal brand of heroine, some writers challenge her tweaking of vampire mythology. I mean, how dare her vamps not become human torches in the sun? Nor are they susceptible to garlic or other typical maladies of the dentally-challenged—sacrilege! But hold up, you say. Aren’t vampires themselves fictional creatures—well, at least according to those of us who don’t indulge in hallucinogenic drugs? So why on earth should SM—or any writer—be bound by rules for things that don’t even exist in the first place?

The conundrum of creative license was driven home even more after I read a query letter critique on a writers’ discussion board. I found myself stunned by one of the crits on a Middle Grade fantasy story. Why? Because the critter was questioning if the author accurately portrayed the way curses are transferred. Silly me. And here I thought accurately portraying curses was an oxymoron. Since, you know, curses are imaginary and all. (And if they aren’t, I beg you—don’t curse me for spouting off, pretty please?)

I guess what it boils down to is this: creative license means different things to different people. What conclusions have I personally drawn? Simple. For me anyway, it all goes back to the basic tenet of fiction writing—making your lie feel true. So long as a book sells the fiction as fact, and does it well, then I don’t care what reality or expectations get altered in the process. I just need to believe. And yes, for all you Twilight haters—this includes sparkly vamps.

But enough about me and my unhealthy, albeit drug-free, obsession with all things vampire. Where do you draw the line in terms of creative license in fiction writing?

Original Post published on Old People Writing for Teens by GotYA contributor Debra Driza. To view original post and reader comments, please click here.

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