Fictivity has at its core the principle of creation.
Human beings, not just writers, create fictions all the time. But these ‘fictions’ (Old French from Latin fictio, from fingere ‘form, contrive’) are not perceived to be separate from that which their originators consider to be ‘true’. In other words, we all take what we perceive and mould it into some kind of comprehensible shape and form as we perceive it. We take this to be ‘reality’.
As young children, these forms and shapes are often dream-like and mythic; as we grow older we learn to conform them to various narratives. We develop narratives of self, of family or immediate people around us, of wider groups, and of the environment in which they operate. We all come to ‘believe’ certain things to be ‘true’; but all of what we believe has been woven by us, taking what is presented to us and weaving it into a ‘garment’ that we wear and use, and which, with use, to some extent wears and uses us. Some of these garments resemble each other; others are wildly at variance. The battles that often occur between these fictive realities are conflicts between different creations. Only when the participants come, through force or persuasion, to change their narratives does conflict lessen or cease.
Thus the tableaux of human life is made up of works of fiction interacting with each other. None of us truly are alone or independent — our stories interweave and are interdependent.
Artists are those who are, or become more aware of, this process and use it to create things which they hope have a kind of existence of their own. Works of art gain their own life, shape and form but from their readers, audiences and participators.
A work of art can be considered to be more ‘successful’ if it has managed to interact with its participators to the degree that it exists with a measure of independence from its author. Thus, a novel is read, enjoyed and studied perhaps centuries after its author’s death; plays are participated in without reference to long-dead playwrights; poems are appreciated despite the total absence of the poet, and so on. Works of art, in this sense, form a kind of ‘shadow grouping’ — they are not properly ‘alive’ in the same way as a person, but they have a quasi-life and continue to exist because of the interaction of participators in a similar way to the way in which human beings interact.
Just as human beings could be said to exist to the degree that they are participatory in the wider world, interacting, sharing, developing life narratives and so forth, so works of art form fields of interaction, sharing and development.
Understanding all this is what the subject of Fictivity is all about. Fictivity attempts to give writers in particular the highest possible degree of command over the creation of works which will achieve this developmental potential. Just applying a few of its principles has been found to deliver, in the hands of a competent writer, a considerably heightened power and communication ability both to the creator and to the work, as will be shown.
Once the above is grasped, it is relatively simple to isolate those things which operate against the success of the writer. If the writer is endeavouring, as we are suggesting, to create something which has a relatively unique and interdependent life of its own, then the forces against that creation are thrown into sharp relief.
‘Interaction’ is a key principle. To be successful, writers must interact, not only with life as it is lived and with other people as they are, but also with the works of art which have been formerly produced throughout the history of fiction. Some writers are afraid to read too widely in case they are ‘influenced’ too much by another writer’s work, and that is understandable — but reaching out and understanding what it is that other writers do is vital if the writer is to grasp certain principles and if his or her work is to be able to develop the quasi-life of its own which should be its aim.
‘Uniqueness’ is another central idea. This is easily misunderstood, though. Too many writers are trapped by their urge to be ‘original’ in their writings before they have interacted with other works enough to realise how to achieve a modicum of originality. It boils down to two key principles which run through everything: similarity and difference. All fiction has, by its nature, this dichotomy: it has elements within it which are similar to elements within other works of fiction; and it has elements which are different. Unless writers make a study of what else is out there, they will never be able to determine the nature of either of these aspects in their own work. And without knowing what in their work is similar to that of others and what is different, they will inevitably fail in any attempt to be ‘unique’. ‘Uniqueness’ can only properly evolve when sameness is totally understood.
‘Interdependent life’ is the state being aimed at. That is, a work of fiction being able to ‘stand on its own two feet’ and to affect audiences without the presence of or any further interference from its author.
So what operates against interaction, uniqueness and interdependence?