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Fictivity: Communication


It’s all about communication.

You want to take some concepts — perhaps heart-felt and profound or light-hearted and flippant or whatever is at the core of the fiction you are writing — and, using various fictive devices and channels, transfer them across to another human being with such effectiveness that they are comprehended, understood and appreciated. Even more: in an ideal world, you want the person receiving the original message to be able to add to and develop it further using his or her own imagination.

It sounds simple, but it potentially breaks down every step of the way, particularly at these three points:

1. The writer has only a foggy and incomplete notion of the concepts he or she wishes to transmit.

This can be partly because the writer has a ‘life narrative’ which may be affecting his storytelling on an unconscious level (life narratives were covered earlier in this series); it may also be because the writer has yet to clarify precisely what he or she is trying to say.

One of the most powerful things that a writer can do is determine exactly what he or she has as a message for readers. This doesn’t have to be a cold, rational and easily expressible concept — indeed, it may be that the only way of expressing it is through story. But clarification of this core will yield rewards in terms of the energy, shape and effectiveness of the resulting fiction.

Many writers totally skip this step, mainly because they do not realise that it exists as a step to be done. As a result, their fiction is shapeless and comparatively weak; it bogs down in the mechanics of storytelling and communicates very little.

2. The writer has very little or no knowledge of the fictive devices and channels used by master authors to attract and guide the reader’s attention.

Many writers assume that writing fiction is a somehow ‘magical’ act, and that simply by jotting words down on a page they will ‘earn’ the attention of readers. Unless they have some grasp, however, of the basics developed over centuries of fiction writing, then if they manage to grab any attention at all it will have been by accident.

Precise tools exist for the control of human attention. These tools, like the tools of a carpenter or musician, must be known, practised with and used until a writer can command and direct attention at will.

3. The writer fails to build channels between his or her work and the right readers.

This means that, even if all the work above is done properly, the thing will still fail because those who might be truly interested in it cannot find it or even know that it exists. This area is commonly called ‘marketing’, but all marketing is really an extension of story telling and uses the same kinds of tools.

Communication of concepts is the aim. Everything else flows from that. One must have concepts to communicate, then use the right tools to communicate them, and finally ensure that the final work reaches the people for whom it is intended.

More will follow soon.

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