Friday, December 5, 2014

Writing Fiction

Writing fiction requires not just an active imagination, but also a decent ability to tell a lie. Lie with conviction, with complete abandonment of the truth, and create a web to support the fabrication. A fictional story has to be complete, in all its angles, worlds, twists and turns for it to resonate with a reader. As a writer, I would advise other writers to believe the lie themselves. Live the lie if need be, and keep learning.

No matter how good a writer may be, there is always room for improvement. And if someone were gracious enough to point out shortcomings, that would be the chance to open up and accept. I am not saying all criticism is valid, but I have come across excellent writers who get offended when someone shines a light on a weak point in their work. In the writing world, and specifically in the publishing world, there is very little room for ego. A writer can always reject or accept suggestions, but a writer who wastes time and energy defending his or her work to a critiquing eye is someone who will remain at a standstill.

Make it better, bring it home for the person who found it lacking in one area or another during the editing process, and be grateful someone took the time to give you feedback. But above all, trust your instinct. Like anything else we do in life, we tend to have that nagging voice in our heads telling us when something just isn’t right. If it is a plot issue, and you feel the strings are not knotted tight enough, someone will pick up on that. So do your research, tighten the knots yourself, and make the plot as plausible as possible. If that little voice in your head raises questions about a certain character’s behavior that is not consistent with the kind of person you created, fix it. Characters don’t have to be predictable and consistent. Real people are not. But if you took the time to paint a character in a meaningful way, then his or her behavior must match. Redo the scene that bothers you deep down, it will bother your reader too.

Lilas Taha is a novelist, winner of the 2017 International Book Awards  and is the author of Shadows of Damascus and Bitter Almonds.

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