Right now, I am preparing for a panel presentation at the San Mateo County Fair on June 19. The topic: So You Want to Write a Novel. This got me to thinking about why it is that so many people would like to write a novel, or at least say they do. I thought of several reasons.
It’s an easy road to fame: Some people think it would be easy! Novelist Isabel Allende tells the story of meeting a brain surgeon at a party. He told her, “When I retire, I’d like to write a novel.” She countered with, “When I retire, I’d like to become a brain surgeon.”
You have an active imagination: You’re the kind of person who daydreams about the experiences of others. You read a real life account of, say, a small plane downed in the Sierras with a single survivor, and this puts you right into the mind of that survivor and imagining what they are thinking and doing.
It’s cathartic: Those people who keep a regular journal know it is incredibly beneficial to consign your thoughts to paper. Writing fiction will always reflect your own experiences and feelings–and this can be both comforting and fun.
You can write the truth but disguise it as fiction: Many debut novels are fictionalized life stories. Writing is cathartic, as I said before. Writing your own life story is particularly so. A couple of reasons to turn truth into fiction: (1) to minimize the risk of embarrassing or angering other people who are part of your story; (2) to reduce the need to get every single fact (dates, times, etc.) exact.
To publicize a cause you believe in: Quoting Isabel Allende again, “You can tell the deepest truths with the lies of fiction.” Everyone likes to listen to a story; not everyone wants to hear a lecture. Often the most persuasive way to get people interested in your cause is to write a story about it.