Posts tagged "fiction"

What is Our Role as Fiction Writers?

What is Our Role as Fiction Writers?

I used to ponder the utility of fiction. My view was partly predicated on my training as a political scientist, but it was also because I found non-fiction much more interesting than any made-up story. A majority of my reading for the past several years has been non-fiction, and I often prefer documentaries to movies and true-life crime shows to murder mysteries.

But I write fiction now, and so unless I concede that what I write is useless, which I can’t or won’t do, then it must be the case that made-up stories have some real-world significance. The question becomes just what form that takes.

But before attempting to answer the question of just what the role of a writer is, two points are in order. First, I’m only considering writing that is meant for public consumption. Second, the categories discussed below are not presented in any particular order, nor are they meant to be mutually exclusive.

In order to figure out our role as writers, we should first try to understand why people read fiction in the first place. One reason, perhaps the most popular, is entertainment. Another reason is to better understand the thoughts, experiences, beliefs, and psychology of others. Some might find that reading fiction also increases their creativity. Finally, people might turn to fiction as a way of learning about different things. This is especially true of historical fiction, as some folks find reading straight, non-fiction history a veritable snooze-fest.

There are countless other reasons why a person might pick up a novel, but these will suffice for now. So getting back to our original question, what is our role as fiction writers?

First and directly related to the above, we are storytellers and providers of entertainment. The value people place on escaping from reality is enormous, as evidenced by the astronomical incomes of the top entertainers in our society. While this is particularly true of actors and sports figures, authors like Stephen King, James Patterson, and J.K. Rowling have incomes that would make Midas blush. Consequently, some argue that our role as writers is to entertain the most people we can, as measured particularly by book sales and incomes.

This is perhaps the most popular role of the fiction writer, but there are others. Some writers consider increasing awareness and understanding of a particular character/viewpoint crucial. I attempt to do this in Conversations Among Ruins, where the male protagonist is dual diagnosed (i.e., suffers from a mood disorder and chemical dependency), a perspective/illness not often portrayed in novels. Presenting the viewpoints of underrepresented voices in fiction can help increase understanding of marginalized peoples. Understanding can promote empathy and empathy is one thing I believe can help ameliorate our increasingly atomized society.

This leads to my last point. I think that one of our most important, and currently neglected, roles as fiction writers is to take part in the societal debates that shape our times. In the past, great novels often had sociopolitical implications—think Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe, The Jungle by Upton Sinclair, All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque, Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe, 1984 by George Orwell, To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, and, more recently, Toni Morrison’s Beloved.

If we look at popular books in recent years we see that most of them have little to do with reality: The Harry Potter books, The Hunger Games, and Game of Thrones. I’m not saying that all books should take on important issues, but I think the fact that so few do is an abdication of an important role of the writer. This is especially true in these divided times, where, regardless of your beliefs or political stance, being a well-informed citizen is crucial.

Fiction has a way of reaching people in a way that non-fiction doesn’t and can be an important tool in raising awareness and promoting discussion of critical topics. I think we as writers almost have an obligation to do so.

What do you think?

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Posted by Matthew Peters - April 4, 2017 at 8:10 am

Categories: Writing   Tags: , , ,

My Interview with Jennifer Moorman

Please welcome JENNIFER MOORMAN author of THE BAKER’S MAN


Tell us a bit about yourself and what you are currently working on or promoting.

I’m a southern writer currently working as a Publications Coordinator and Senior Editor at a publishing house. I am currently writing a novella and a novel that both take place in the same town as my first published novel, The Baker’s Man. I am also editing a YA novel, The Wickenstaff’s Journey, with a co-creator.


What genre(s) do you write in?

I mostly write magical realism novels, but I also write young adult fantasy.

What sets you apart from other authors in your genre?

Each writer has his or her own unique voice, and I believe my voice is distinct in my writing.


Do you have an agent and/or publisher, or are you self-published?

I am a self-published author.


How many revisions do you make to something before it sees the light of day?

As many as it takes! Some revisions take a few months to complete, but I have one novel that has been in the works for years. Sometimes it matters what place you’re in your life, and as your experiences shift and change, you can revisit old manuscripts and bring new life to them.


Who or what inspires you to write?

Other writers, music that moves me, dreams.


Do you have a set of writing goals that you try to accomplish each day?

I’ve set a goal of writing 500 words per day. Some days I make the goal (or well more than 500), and some days I don’t. I try my best to reach the goal every day just to make sure I’m writing. You can’t say you’re a writer if you never write.


Do you outline your stories or are you a non-outline person?

I’m a bit of both. Most of the time I have a basic outline so that I know where the story is going, but I leave myself plenty of breathing room in case the story (or a character) takes on a new direction.


What is one thing about you that you’d like your readers to know?

I can’t whistle. I’m kidding. I mean, I can’t whistle, but what I’d like readers to know is that a lot of my stories come from my dreams.


What are your three favorite books?

A Certain Slant of Light by Laura Whitcomb, The Sugar Queen by Sarah Addison Allen, and The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett


Who is your favorite author and why?

I love J. K. Rowling. Her work with the Harry Potter series is amazing. The story is so complex, weaving together from beginning to end. She created memorable characters, and I never get tired of reading the books over and over again.


If you could have a conversation with one person living or dead who would it be?

 Jesus. I have some questions for Him. I know He’d have the answers.


What are you currently reading?

I’m currently reading two books: The Pillow Book by Sei Shonagon and Stubborn by Jeanne Arnold


What makes good writing?

A cohesive story, dynamic characters who give you a reason to want to root for them, imaginative storylines, good grammar


How do you keep sane as a writer?

How does anyone keep sane? I laugh a lot.


If you could be any character in literature, who would you choose to be?

Hermione Granger


Has reading a book ever changed your life? If yes, which one and how?

The Secret Garden was the first book I read as a child that made me realize I love to read.


Have you had to make sacrifices for your writing, and if so, what are they?

I sacrifice a great deal of sleep. But when you work a full-time job, you squeeze in time to write, even if that means getting up earlier in the morning.


What do you like best about writing?

I love creating stories that people enjoy.


What advice would you give to an aspiring writer?

Never, never, never give up. Keep reading as much as you can. Write every day.


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Thank you, Jennifer Moorman, for sharing your time with us. I wish you all the best with your writing. Please keep us posted on the latest developments.




Here is a synopsis and the prologue from The Baker’s Man:



In her enchanting debut novel, Jennifer Moorman invites you to a whimsical little Southern town where magic floats on every breeze and is baked into every cake. Moorman weaves the tale of a young woman whose grandmother’s secret—and the ancestry of her grandfather—are about to change her life forever. Anna O’Brien is sure of three things: there’s nothing she can’t bake, life is sweeter with chocolate, and her dreams are better left unspoken—especially to her mother.


For a while, Anna has been living her life according to the expectations of others, never stepping out of line, never following her heart. Her one consolation is continuing her grandmother’s legacy by running Bea’s Bakery. When Anna’s long-term boyfriend decides to move across the country without her, she is forced to face an uncertain future. After a long night in the bakery with her best friend, Lily, Anna’s humdrum existence rockets out of control when she follows a mysterious recipe left behind by her grandmother and finds Elijah—a handsome stranger—baking donuts in her kitchen the next morning.


Soon Anna is living in a world where she must deal with the repercussions of Elijah’s unexpected existence, while trying not to fall in love with “the dough boy.” Brimming with humor, love, and a sprinkling of magic, The Baker’s Man is an irresistible tale of friendship, forgiveness, and the enchanting possibilities of following one’s heart.




The older generation of townspeople still talked about that night in late July when the southbound train carrying sugar cane and cotton was late because the on-duty conductor had eloped instead of going into work. Two hours passed before anyone realized the train hadn’t pulled out of the station, and it took another two hours before a substitute conductor could be found.

So four hours later than usual, the train barreled through Mystic Water, blasting its horn at every crossing and waking everyone from a deep sleep. The train brought with it an intense summer wind that swept over the town, uprooting half the willows along Jordan Pond. It plucked sunflower petals and created twirling yellow tornados. It caused the sleeping birds such anxiety that they erupted into twilight birdsong and didn’t stop until about the time Bea’s Bakery opened for business.

Nobody slept that night, not with the train and the wind and the birds. More than half the town showed up at the bakery in desperate need of a cup of Bea’s Give-Me-a-Jolt Java, and that’s when they saw him—Joe O’Brien—looking like a man who’d climbed out of an Irish novel, broad-shouldered, red-haired, and green-eyed. He helped Beatrice behind the counter like he’d been born to be her partner.

Some said he’d jumped from the southbound train. Others said he’d appeared like magic. Everyone agreed they’d never seen a man look more in love with any woman than Joe was with Beatrice.

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Posted by Matthew Peters - February 6, 2014 at 1:19 pm

Categories: Author Interviews   Tags: , , , ,

A Word on Process

Index Cards


I am interested in the different approaches different writers take to their work. Some make extensive outlines before they write, while others are more seat-of-their-pants types. Some do extensive character work prior to writing, while others let their characters develop over the course of the first and subsequent drafts.

I want to raise the issue of writing process and share a little bit about mine. I am a former academic, a political scientist by training, and so academic, non-fiction writing is almost second nature. What I didn’t realize when I started writing fiction is that writing fiction and writing non-fiction are two very different animals. Seldom do you worry about things like character arcs, plot points, and dénouements when writing academically (though in creative non-fiction such things can be just as important). Yes, the two are very different. I spent a lot of time unlearning the academic stiffness and the formal way of writing characteristic of journal articles and academic books.

But, and this is what I really want to share, I’ve been careful not to throw out the baby with the bathwater. There are skills I picked up in academia that I seek to carry over into my writing of fiction. The primary one is that ole’ r-word: research. It took me a long time to realize that detail and accuracy is not only important in writing effective fiction, but often depends on it.

When I was in college, friends joked about how I was a flash-card nerd. I always wrote things down on index cards and studied that way, usually to good effect. Only relatively recently I discovered that index cards can be just as useful, if not more so, in writing fiction. Now I do extensive research on my novels before writing a word—thrillers often lend themselves well to the outline approach. And let me just say that I have never used index cards to the extent I do now. I take all kinds of notes on possible plot points, important topics, and ideas for future novels. I rely on these notes when developing the story and writing the first few drafts.

In addition to the index cards relevant to a particular book, I keep another constantly running collection that I add to while reading. When I come across a particularly apt phrase, a simile, metaphor, or word that strikes me, I write it down on an index card. I have categories like overall physical description, eyes, furnishings, gestures, dialogue, and vocabulary.

The point is that good research skills can be applied to writing fiction just as much as non-fiction. I wanted to bring that to people’s attention because it took me a while to figure out. If I can save anyone some time on developing his or her skills as a writer, then I’m all for it.

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Posted by Matthew Peters - January 29, 2014 at 11:02 am

Categories: Writing   Tags: , , ,

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