By Seun Salami
The way I see it, fiction writing is one of the most powerful tools available to man. Yet we are barely scratching the surface. I’ll explain.
Fiction engages our emotions and therefore makes us easy to shape.
What this means is that compelling fiction has the same effect on the human mind that a true event does. A well written fictional account of a woman losing her baby will most likely generate the same reaction – compassion, and even tears – as a true account of such an ordeal would.
This makes the morality or otherwise of fiction equally critical because it has been proven time and time again that the human mind does not have the ability to distinguish between fiction and reality.
Fiction helps us understand other people. It promotes a deep probity that cuts across religious and political creeds. Through the eyes of fiction, we can see what others are about, where they’ve been and intend to be and what they are capable of. We see the world through the eyes of fiction because much of what we call fiction is simply knowledge rubbing shoulders with imagination. It is the coming together of our life’s experiences, lessons, and fantasies, blended together by creativity.
More to that is the fact that studies have also shown that we drop our intellectual guards when we read fiction but when we read non-fiction (self-help) books, our shields go up and we are ready to argue true or false, right or wrong. The human mind absorbs fiction faster than other art forms.
With fiction, we are moved emotionally, and this seems to make us rubbery and easy to shape. It is a powerful tool.
What this means for writers, is that we can decide what message we want to shape the minds of our readers with. We can decide what issues we want them to focus on, and take seriously. We can take on issues and bring them to the fore with our writing. We can set the agenda.
But to do this effectively, we must first be in love with fiction, and reading is the best way to do this. Read the kind of fiction you want to write and see yourself improve piece after piece. There are many things no one will teach you about fiction writing and many more things no one will give you permission to do with your writing, but reading wide does that for you. It releases you. It broadens your horizon and puts you in a good place to make your own contribution to the world of literature.
That said, find someone you respect who can critique your work before the whole world begins to. Someone who is not afraid to tell you that your work sucks, if it does, and you need to go back to the writing board.
If you can, please write something every day. If not, write as much as you can and as consistently as you can. You only get better at writing by writing.
Finally, don’t let anything – or anyone – come between you and your writing. I once read somewhere that for true writers, nothing comes between them and their art, not even love. And there is some truth in that, because this – fiction writing – for them, is love.
‘Seun Salami is a writer and editor. He serves as Head of Publishing at Bookvine Publishers in Lagos and is the author of two short story collections and a novella. He is working on his first novel. He currently divides his time between Lagos and Vancouver. He is on Twitter/Instagram: @SeunWrites