The Facts (?) About Fiction

The very first thing that popped into my mind when considering the MIW capstone project is something I have never really attempted before: fiction.

I know, probably not the smartest idea. Fiction/creative writing is not something you’re magically good at without practice, and the thought of attempting it in this context is mildly terrifying, but the idea just won’t leave me alone. Despite my lack of experience, the fiction writing process is something I’d love to explore. It’s always something that I’ve wanted to try or to learn, but in a few months I will graduate with a degree in English and not a single piece of creative writing to show for it. Not that creative writing is required or necessary, but something feels off about the fact that I’ve spent years loving, analyzing, and defending the value of fiction but haven’t tried writing it myself— unless the highly questionable fanfiction that I wrote as an experimental part of my gateway project counts.

The relevance and experience of fiction is something I have always been really interested in. So, I thought it might be interesting to do something regarding the experience of reading fiction versus the experience of writing fiction, and the value—perhaps intertwined or similar, perhaps rather different—of these experiences.

What is the value of reading fiction? What is the value of writing fiction? Are they the same? What is the value of these experiences in formal education? These, of course, could be personal questions, varying from individual to individual. I’d like to think that this could involve research/reading books/talking to people about the creative process and the process of fiction writing.

The idea for the project itself is all very muddled right now, but I like the thought of the whole project being immersive, and the overall result being analytical of the experience of fiction vs. nonfiction, so maybe it could be a collection of short fiction stories and nonfiction creative essays (…or one of each) discussing the experience of learning and the value of fiction, maybe making it a bit more coherent by choosing a specific genre or idea to explore in fiction.

I’m having trouble transforming what I would like to explore in an actual project—any and all advice is insanely appreciated!

9 thoughts to “The Facts (?) About Fiction”

  1. Hey Giana,

    I like that you’re trying to step outside your comfort zone and try something new here, and I think this is a compelling idea. What truths can we learn from fiction, and how does reading fiction versus writing it compare in terms of value? I think the value of reading fiction is that it can be entertaining and allow you to escape from reality, but can also teach you important and applicable real-world lessons. Writing fiction, on the other hand, allows you to express or convey your feelings or opinion through a creative lens. Though there is a lot nonfiction can teach us, fiction might be the better way to learn about ourselves. I like your idea about putting together a collection of fiction and nonfiction pieces. For the nonfiction one, maybe you can talk to professional writers or professors to get their insight on your question. I think you should zero in on a more specific genre to better tie the project together. I’m not sure if I have a suggestion as to what that genre should be, but maybe it should be something that would relate to your past work, so it would fit in well with your entire portfolio.

  2. Hi, Giana,

    I think it’s a good idea of you to explore fiction before you graduate. If it’s been a long-held desire of yours, I would definitely do it no matter how limited your experience may be. Once you graduate, you may or may not be able to pursue this interest, but you won’t have that “gun to your head” to keep you writing. As someone who has done many major creative projects for my classes, I can tell you that having a class that forces you to create something fictional or story-driven is really rewarding because it teaches you both about the craft you choose while it also gives you major skills in terms of learning how to be committed to a project, push through blocks, and constantly process your work while you’re doing it. Basically, I’m telling you to follow your heart on the fiction idea. Be prepared for it to be hard, but also be excited to learn a lot and get lost in a world of your own.

    I like your idea about making stories that reflect on fiction versus non-fiction and the act of reading versus writing. I’m really big on meta work, and it looks like you may be too if this is the topic you are drawn towards. I once wrote a short play that explored my identity as a writer through different monologues of characters of mine. It turned out pretty interesting. Maybe you could think of something similar–write short fiction and non-fiction pieces that explore your identity as a reader? Or maybe you could come up with one longer story that serves the same reflections. I’m sure we can talk about this more in class.

  3. Hi Giana! Man I love fiction writing. It’s the bomb.com and it has also really stretched my fiction-reading mind, too, which might be an interesting thing for you to consider analyzing. How does writing fiction make you re-look at books? Maybe you could take your allegedly questionable fan fiction and run with that, and think about the difference between writing fan fiction or fiction from scratch. You could write a fanfiction of a serious literary book (to differentiate it from the typical Harry Potter stuff) and write about how that made you look differently at the book. I would politely disagree with Levi and say that for your first time writing fiction I would steer clear of the meta stuff, because it can get hard to distinguish between creative non-fiction and fiction if you’re not experienced with that kind of thing. I know it’s hard for me!

  4. G,
    This seems like a pretty appropriate project for you, so I’m glad you cooked it up. Fiction is pretty crazy to write, and it is usually based off of aspects of your own life, whether or not that is your intention. For the gateway I wrote myself a short story and it certainly wasn’t easy.Maybe you could take an academic essay or another english-y essay that you’ve already written and fiction-ize it. Or write a story about writing a story. Something like that I suppose. I really like the idea of analyzing the creative process. Write a diary or blog or something about the steps you took to write fiction and the research and fiction you read in preparation. So it would be more of a two part assignment, both more on the creative side that traditional essay writing.
    Either way, start reading some short stories because they are the best. Yay!

    -Sam

  5. Hi Giana,

    I love the idea of exploring the english major further by trying to write fiction yourself. And I agree with Levi in so far as you definitely should use the capstone as a way to try something new. I also agree with Mary in that writing a story about writing is tough and may not be the best option for your first try.

    Because of my english major, I’ve found that it’s hard to come up with topics because really I just love words. But writing a story there needs to be more substance there so it’s also a great opportunity to write about another one of your interests (primates?) or several of them in conversation and see what happens. I think the biggest thing to remember (and the hardest sometimes because we’re used to looking at complete drafts) is to play in drafts and that not every idea has to be the best and that you’ll write through some only to find others that actually work. That’s why I love sam’s idea of writing another essay tracking your progress, thoughts, feels, etc. so you come out of this with a piece of creative writing, but also an exploration of the process.

    But yeah, short stories are the best 🙂

  6. I think it is definitely a good idea to explore fiction writing! I did so my sophomore year and I didn’t pursue it further afterward but I did enjoy it and think it bettered me for the future. I also think that you are right in that we spend so much time analyzing and defending the value of fictional writing without writing it ourselves. I think gaining this experience for yourself would be great. Making the project an immersion project would be successful. Maybe writing a short story that is fiction but based off of your experience in exploring the value of writing fiction or reading fiction. You could use supernatural or magical elements to make the fiction clear and fun, while the content of the story and storyline is analyzing.

  7. Hi Giana,

    I also have never really explored fiction and it seems silly that we read so much of it and then have to write nonfiction essays about it. Like Sam said, tracking your progress could be an interesting topic in itself. How you as a writer are able to transform the way you are able to convey ideas in your paper. Writing fiction sounds like a lot of fun and something everyone should try!

  8. Hey Giana,

    There are so many different angles you could approach this idea of writing fiction that I say, before you do anything else, just write the piece. I think starting this way will (1) ensure that you’re central (I think) goal is accomplished, (2) allow you to dedicate the most time possible to this portion of the project, and (3) expose you to what facets of fiction writing you most want to explore for the rest of your project.

    All in all, I really like the idea of using your Capstone Project as a way to tackle a new creative medium! The freedom and time we are given can really facilitate this sort of thing. Good luck moving forward!

  9. Hi Giana! I feel the same way about fiction writing. It’s something I never attempted until recently because I didn’t think I had a good enough story to tell. And then I realized after reading “The Opposite of Loneliness,” which is basically a compilation of a college student’s writing, that the topic doesn’t matter. It’s probably not the case that any story you enjoyed reading was elaborate and exciting. You could literally write about anything and it’s the language, not the content necessarily that makes it beautiful. I would have never learned this simply by reading fiction novels. I think that exploring the cross between realism and fabrication in fiction novels could be helpful in the comparison between reading and writing them.

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