Attached to life at all four corners by Rosanne Dingli

Fiction is a funny thing … that fiction authors take very seriously. So seriously, in fact, that it can take over their lives, and depress, frighten, enthuse, or gladden them. Fiction has the power to mystify its creators; dash their hopes, fill them with wonder, and douse them with the kind of despondency that is hard to shake.

Fiction Stacks
Image by chelmsfordpubliclibrary via Flickr

For some it is storytelling; for others, a tool to incorporate who they are as people with what the world would like to hear from them. For a few it is a curse; for many, the only joy in their lives. Fiction, if it is in your life, can be the source of the whole gamut of emotions. It is a rare author who has no deep emotive life. There seems to be a prerequisite to be able to feel events, scenes and snatches from real life in a sensitive way, if one is to turn them into stories that will move readers. One must be capable of melancholia and ecstasy. Otherwise, how can one create them, to be felt by others? All stories are to do with life. Even the ones built on the most outlandish science, on fantasy, on improbability, need to be anchored in some way to human life as we know it. In fact, it is rather hard to move so far away from life to write something that is beyond the ken of even the most intrepid reader with the wildest imagination.

The authors who gave us the most amazing imaginings of their own, such as Jules Verne, Isaac Asimov and Robert A Heinlein,  impress with the humanity of the emotion aroused by some aspects of their fictions, even when telling a story distanced by eons from what humans are used to. The noted critic Marie-Laure Ryan observes that the fictional world and the actual world are inextricably related. What attracts us to stories, and what keeps fiction up there as one of the most sought-after means of distraction from the miserable and the mundane, a means of entertainment and recreation, is the ability to relate, compare, and distance ourselves from our apparently small and confusing lives, and approach fictional ones that are just as perplexing and confusing… but not our own. What a relief to be able to sort out the fate, watch the dilemmas, and rejoice at the endings of the life of a being outside our dominion.

Virginia WoolfProtagonists are surrogates, built on the hopes and fears of authors who find escape in the telling. Their stories, however, are like spider webs, attached to life at all four corners, as the novelist with the most to feel, and the most to fear – and the most to be joyous about – let us know. Virginia Woolf‘s feelings are no news to anyone who has started a novel, or slapped together the pages of a notebook in relief at the conclusion of the fifth draft. Her watershed novels are all about life, with recognizable people from her circle of acquaintance making entrances and exits.

Although we do not all create protagonists in that way, we cannot afford to allow our fiction to detach from the spiderweb of life from any of its corners without the risk of losing readers. On the strength of our fiction, writers like us are granted permission to present our angle on life to an audience. We are allowed our own entrances and exits into minds open and welcoming – for the greatest part. It is a privilege not to be taken lightly.

Author Rosanne Dingli
Author Rosanne Dingli

I have been invited to write about writing, and the writing life, by Indies Unlimited. It is flattering and frightening, all at once. I can’t write a bit of fiction, post it, and be done with it. I need to entertain and edify with real stuff, and abandon that friendly human spiderweb whose stickiness and familiarity is comforting. I might be at a loss to find relevant topics, so by all means leave comments that might spur me onward. Is there anything about the writer’s life that I am supposed to know about that you care to see here? Ask questions. Demand explanations.


Ryan, Marie-Laure (2006). Avatars of story. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press

Woolf, Virginia (1989) A Room of One’s Own. New York: Harcourt Brace & Co

*     *     *     *     *

ROSANNE DINGLI, author of Death in Malta and According to Luke, has written quite a bit of fiction since 1985. Some of it is collected in seven volumes of stories that were awarded, commended and published in anthologies, journals, supplements and magazines.  

For more about Rosanne Dingli, visit her website , or her blog.  [subscribe2]

Enhanced by Zemanta

9 thoughts on “Attached to life at all four corners by Rosanne Dingli”

  1. Great blog, Rosanne. Something I'd like to see addressed is that no matter why we write – fun, passion, obsession, whatever – it's okay not to write. Too often writers feel guilty if life gets in the way and they're not writing for any period of time. Believe it or not, it's okay to give yourself permission to not write. I went through a 3 year period where I couldn't write a word that was any good because of family illnesses and issues. It wasn't until I told myself it was okay not to be writing that the guilt lifted off my shoulders. Then I went through another period where the passion for writing just got up and left. When you're in this business as long as I've been (30+ years) there are bound to be times when you just don't want to write, for whatever the reason. For me, the passion came back with a vengeance and when it did, I was ready for it. Writers should never think, OMG, I didn't write a word today, I must be a failure. Unless you're writing to a contractual deadline, then it's okay.

  2. As a new author, I hung on your every word about getting published. You also offered some great insights on creating a setting, and making your characters spring to life. The questions you've answered and experience you've shared on many forums have been invaluable, and would make excellent topics. Oh, and story arc would be amazing.

  3. Rosanne, you have never failed to edify, support and offer useful insights and information. I have learned much from many members of this group but the most from yourself and Kat. I am so glad you will be here. You make me a better writer.

  4. One problem I am struggling with at the moment is how to give two main characters who both speak in the first person unique voices so that the reader will know without being told who is 'on' at that moment. They have both been introduced in the previous book so already have characteristics that cannot change too much, although they are undergoing some transformation. Don't know if that fits here or not but I think the more general issue of finding believable voices for characters may.

  5. "Flattering and frightening . . ." That certainly sounds familiar. I remember reading something Heinlein once wrote–about a great science fiction story being a great story that just happens to be in a science fictional setting. Ultimately, all we can share–writers and everyone else–is our humanity.

  6. Great post,Rosanne. I always enjoy whatever you write about. One thing I struggle with is the one-sentence pitch for a book. I find it very difficult to condense 50,000 – 100,000 words into one sentence that has enough of a 'kick' to grab people's attention.

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: