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Fictivity: The Editor's True Task

False understandings are the enemy of artists and writers.

Particular kinds of impulses, obsessions, delusions and other unwanted ideas manifest themselves against the individual without necessarily prompting any inspection. Thus, many who would wish to become successful as writers are isolated from their goals without being aware of the reasons why.

The first task for any would-be successful writer is introspection. This is an inward journey not just to find material for stories but to discover those principles upon which the writer’s own life has been built. It’s a psychic voyage into the heart of the individual’s own ‘myth’: what has the person grown to believe to be true from their very earliest times up until the present day? It’s an adventure into the Uninspected.

What is usually found is one of four believed positions:

‘I’m happy in a happy world’ = Epic

‘I’m happy in a neutral world’ = Comedy

‘I’m sad in a neutral world’ = Tragedy

‘I’m sad in a sad world’ = Irony

At first glance it might seem that it would be very difficult for the individual writer to undertake this journey alone. Those uninspected principles which will be found at the heart of the myth he or she has constructed about Life might seem well hidden — by the writer himself or herself. Indeed, self-driven psychological quests of this kind are not recommended — but it can be kept simple and relatively stress-free by spotting which of the four basic positions above an individual has assumed.

A story written by a writer — any writer, experienced or not — yields a kind of guide to the ways in which that writer’s mind and heart operates. A tale can be orderly, restrained, wild, dark, shallow, deep, full of metaphors or coldly stark; it can be many things. But under expert eyes, these things are all clues as to the psychic foundations upon which they have been constructed. And generally speaking, most fiction falls into one of the four categories above.

A knowledgeable editor, trained in the principles of Fictivity, can take the writer on a voyage into that writer’s understanding of himself or herself. It can be a tricky business, as you might imagine, but it can be done. Editors are normally seen as coming along later in the picture to tweak and twist a work into a shape which will appeal to a targeted readership; they are seen as mechanics, and sometimes seen as enemies. But a true editor is the opposite of these things.

An editor’s true task is to journey with the writer into the core of a work of fiction to determine the myth upon which it has been built — and that process, if done correctly, results in the work developing its own independent relationship with readers. It gets a 'life of its own'. That means that it will succeed, outliving the writer.

It doesn’t matter what the writer’s personal ‘position’ is: it may be Epic, Tragic, Comic or Ironic. What matters is that the understanding of that personal position can create life where before there might have been only dull cliché or derivative superficiality.

The prize of the writer and editor, the treasure that lies at the centre of their quest, is the Uninspected Truth: the core belief at the heart of a whole constructed life narrative which, upon inspection, opens up a wider and deeper world to its author.

More on this soon.


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