Why Fiction is where it’s at.

The importance of masks.

I used to teach writing workshops for kids who, in some cases, had lived through things I can barely imagine. And, as I have mentioned, honesty is the cornerstone of great writing as far as I am concerned. I was working, and writing, with people who had some really, really intense shit to draw upon. I had three rules. Three very, very important rules.

1)    No writing about weapons anywhere near a school (that happened once and it was an ugly scene…mandated reporter and all).

2)    No writing about abuse, neglect, or violence in the home unless you want me to call CPS (mandated reporter). I’m more than happy to call CPS, but don’t be surprised when I do (sometimes this happened anyway as a cry for someone to step in. And I did.)

3)    Everything we write is fiction. I don’t care if it says autobiography across the top in huge letters and everyone has the correct names. Fiction!

The ‘fiction’ rule accomplished two things. One, it allowed us to fudge the other two rules a bit if necessary. And two, it gave our writing the anonymity it deserved. The kids got it. And it was easy for me for one simple reason. I am a fiction writer. Everything I write is fiction.

One of the more annoying parts of being a fiction writer is that there is a certain segment of the reading population that wants to know what part is “true”.  Whether I based any of the character off people I know… Which one is me?

I am a fiction writer and, of course, I base my writing off of real experiences sometimes. Sometimes I base characters on people I know. A lot of the time they are created from slivers of myself. I have always thought there is a bit of the writer in every character if you’re doing it right. But here’s the thing. It’s none of your damn business. The story is the story and if you like it, great. If not, OK. But whether or not it is ‘true’ has nothing to do with it being real and honest and true to itself AS A STORY.

Some things I write are pretty obviously autobiographical. Especially if you know me. Doesn’t matter. Fiction. I can write an article about going on a motorcycle ride with my boys and if you ask me, I’m going to tell you it’s fiction. It’s called privacy. And I also want my work to stand on its own feet. Whether “it really happened to me” is irrelevant. If I start worrying about that, I can’t write honestly. There are many things that I write which I am not comfortable discussing. But I can write about them. Because it is fiction.

Both my novels are fictional. Is there a bit of me in the characters…do I guide my characters based upon real things that have happened to me…do I have recurring themes in my work because they are recurring themes in my life? What, are you slow?  Of course not, I told you, it’s all fiction.

One of the nice things about being a writer is that you can be as open as you want with your life and still maintain some separation. People will make assumptions. I’ve had people ask me ridiculously personal questions. Was I a drug addict? Have I ever cheated on my wife? Do I believe violence is the answer to personal conflict. I could go on and on, but I don’t need to because I write fiction. If you want to know about me, I’ve done an assload of interviews. They are all fictitious of course. And if you really want to know what I think about this issue, well you’re going to have to get me drunk and grill me because this entire post has been fictional. Just like everything else I write.

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JD Mader is a Contributing Author for Indies Unlimited and author of the novels JOE CAFÉ and THE BIKER – and co-author of the mighty Bad Book. For more information, please see the IU Bio page and his blog:www.jdmader.com (and musical nonsense here: JD Mader).  Mader’s edgier works can be found at www.blergpop.com.

Author: JD Mader

JD Mader is an award winning short story writer and novelist. 'Joe Café' and 'The Biker' are out now, as well as 'Please, no eyes'. and the collaborative 'Bad Book'. Mader has been writing for half his life and has no plans on stopping any time soon. Learn more about JD Mader at his blog and his Amazon author page.

22 thoughts on “Why Fiction is where it’s at.”

  1. Well written, well said. Thanks for this post JD. We all, ALL, needed to read this and be reminded.

    P.S. Excellent way to connect in with the kids you were working with too.

    1. Yeah, me too. Other than what do you write about. That's the worst for me. I usually say, "Unicorns". That ends the conversation.

  2. Great post JD, even if it all was fiction! I thought your three rules were fantastic, especially #3 Everything we write is fiction.

    I love the idea, so if I tell the reader upfront that my story is historical fiction – it's historical fiction, right? Then when someone asks me if what I have written really happened I can say – it was all fiction, and not even bother to explain. Not even hint that some may be true, because it's all fiction?

    I love it – thanks, that is exactly what I'm going to say about my new book – "Back in the Day" – it's all fiction and I enjoyed writing about it.

  3. This confusion comes about because people equate fiction with lacking truth. Yet it carries as much "truth" as any nonfiction, and when done well, probably more.

  4. A very timely post JD Mader. I'm writing about psychopaths, sociopaths and some very odd biology which is all fiction but I've been worrying lately about how people will react to /me/. If I do my job well then will they think that I'm a psychopath? And will they question my sexuality or biology? The coward in me has been flirting with the idea of being less true to the story.

    I loved your assertion that it's none of their business. So no more flirting. I am writing fiction and 'they' can think what they want!

    1. That's the way! Good one ya. I have written things that make me cringe. But the story needs what the story needs and puritans (or semi puritans like me) can take a long walk….

  5. Love this. I had not thought of it that way, but I think I chose to write fiction when so many told me I ought to write an autobiography. The freedom to explore (in an honest way) the things that I would never uncover of they were fact and to find ways of handling them that were not my own allows me to write. I would be silenced otherwise. And I hate that question – what part of you is in the characters, or which character is most you? Of course there are bits of me in all of them. I made them up didn't I? But none of them ARE me. As you say – it's all fiction. Thanks for a thought provoking post – as usual.

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