Hello, My Name is Robin and I’m a Liar… or AM I?

So recently another writer wrote something to the effect that she “writes from life” while a lot of other writers (myself included) “[write] fantasy – a sort of Hunger Games Admiration Society…”

I responded to her comment with the following statement:

“I hope I can give you an accurate picture of … my own personal feelings about writing in general.

For myself, I write a variety of things including poems, articles, and essays most of which are NOT fantasy. My first love is fantasy fiction, true, but my stories have pretty much nothing to do with the Hunger Games both because I focus on adults rather than teens and because The Hunger Games books are not fantasy at all but science fiction/speculative fiction.

My personal belief is that ALL writing comes from life… even [those] not set in the “real world” can be intensely therapeutic. You don’t get that kind of benefit if you are not writing from some deep place within you.

Some of the most poignant and hard hitting commentaries on life, politics, and society have been in the fantasy/sci-fi genre (1984, Animal Farm, Midnight’s Children, Satanic Verses [my God, Salman Rushdie had a death sentence put on his head for writing and publishing this book], A Door into Ocean, The Chronicles of Narnia, Herland, Almanac of the Dead, Illusion, Brave New World, Utopia [the grandaddy of speculative fiction], The Handmaid’s Tale and so on and so on).

I guess I view literature very similarly to art. You have realism, which seeks to imitate the everyday world and people as closely as possible. I would put Charles Dickens, Jane Austen, a lot of Alice Walker, and most “literary” novels in this group. Then you have lots of different movements like cubism, pointillism, impressionism etc. that somehow fracture the real world, or recast it to say something new or unexpected about life. A good example of this comparison can be found in the paintings Black Planes by Horacio Ferrer Morgado and Guernica by Picasso. Both depict the horrors of the Spanish Civil War, but where Morgado used realism to create a beautiful and moving tribute to the victims of the war, Picasso presented the world with what looked like a picture torn to pieces and then put back together haphazardly – much the way war victims must feel when their city and home is bombed and their lives destroyed. Is either one better than the other or more important in the documentation of a tragic time period? I don’t think so.”

I hope that all writers, no matter what they write or how they choose to approach a story, do not feel that their work is less important or valuable and potentially moving because of the genre they work in. We ALL write from life, some of us just take the scenic route and like dragons in our stories while others of us try to capture life in a more literal way.

Stephen King has written that, over the years, people have tried to shame him because of what he writes about. Well, King has more fans, touches more lives, and – to be crass – has more money than most of those “real life writers” put together. Just something to think about when you begin to doubt yourself.

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