If you’ve ever read one of the Fiction Weekend Stories List or Prompt posts, you’ve probably noticed something like this included in darned near every one of them:
Everyone is welcome to join in - if you feel inspired, go for it!
The only requirement is that a piece announced in the comments be a fiction piece.
Last weekend, I added this: (OS gives enough attention to non-fiction, so please don't try to hype your non-fiction here, too - let this be a refuge for fiction, as was intended.)
Since the creation of this blog, we’ve had some transitions to make and debates about ways of doing things. One that I never expected was that some people think that, no matter what’s written (even in the fricking NAME of the blog), this is a place to advertise their non-fiction work.
Several OSers have pointed out that sometimes there’s a very thin line between fiction and non-fiction. What if, for example, your OS persona is just that – a persona, and in no way related to the “real” you? Is every post you write, then, fiction?
In my opinion, not exactly, at least not for the intents and purposes of this blog.
Are you writing stories? Or are you writing about current events/popular culture/musings on life, the universe, and everything/family stories, and/or other topics that any OSer might write about, but you’re just using a different viewpoint/are able to be more honest, due to your persona?
Here are two examples:
Cranky Cuss is a popular blogger here on OS. Cranky's posts are generally observations about life, comments on the news or popular culture, or stories about him and his family. Though he isn't named "Cranky Cuss" in real life, and though the man behind the avatar seems like he's probably not always cranky, his posts are still not what I'd consider fiction - they're just a way for a person to express himself about real-life matters in relative anonymity.
Dr. Strangemom is another OS blogger with a made-up name. Her posts are snarky observations on life, family, friends, and social obligations and traditions. Some of the things she says happen to her may not be true. Some of the people she talks about may be made up or exaggerated. But a Dr. Strangemom post comes off as a musing about something that happened in real, everyday life. The important things are the funny lines and observations – not necessarily elements like plot, imaginary worlds, etc. For me, Dr. Strangemom’s posts aren’t fiction, either.
FW regular zanelle put it very well in a recent comment, I thought: "...if I write a blog entry that gives the illusion of being true it doesn't seem like fiction."
Again, I understand that it’s a fine line. Many of us write fiction stories that take place in what seems to be “the real world”, and that are full of observations, etc. But there is usually something to them that makes them distinctly feel like fiction in its literary definition: maybe the writer’s remove from the action taking place, maybe a close attention to descriptive language, maybe an elaborate plot.
Michael Ondaatje once described a novel as “a mirror walking down a road”. I think that’s a way to define the kind of “fiction” meant in the title of this blog: It can be close to real life, even bear a striking resemblance, but there is an element of the made-up, be it characters or universes.
I’m not saying fiction is a uniform thing. Fiction Club participants often have very different writing styles. Some have written very abstract stories, while others tend to create more traditional narratives. Both of these styles are in keeping with what the Fiction Club is all about, because they focus on things like plot/characters/setting/ambiance.
I guess that’s ultimately what it’s about: if you’re still having trouble deciding what “fiction” is in the context of the Fiction Club, replace “fiction” with “fictional short story/screenplay”.
I decided to M.C. Fiction Weekend so that I could give my fellow fiction-writers a safe harbor, a place where we could share our (fiction) stories, and read others’. A place where readers could come to discover and enjoy fiction writing here on OS. Because let’s face it, OS is not the most fiction-friendly place. A short story will probably never get an Editor’s Pick, or a huge amount of ratings and comments. I like the idea that for those of us who nevertheless choose to post fiction, there’s a place to support each other, and to perhaps attract readers looking for something a little different.
When someone comes here and announces a post that’s not a fiction story in the comments section, they do a huge disservice to the other writers. Most readers don’t have all the time in the world, and if they’re on OS in the first place, they may not particularly be fiction fans. They may not, then, be willing or able to read all of the FW stories each week. Putting an announcement for a non-fiction piece – a piece that readers might have read anyway – into the stories list, means you’ve bumped other writers down, and decreased their chances of their fiction story being read.
I often wonder why anyone who’s written a non-fiction post would even feel the need to announce their work here. Though I’m proud of what the Fiction Club is, I know we’re far from the most popular blog on OS, and I know that most fiction pieces will rarely get many ratings or views. So what’s the point of piggy-backing? It’s not like we’re a huge success that’s guaranteed to bring millions of readers to your non-fiction post.
If you’ve written a non-fiction post that you want to tout, here are some better ways to do it: 1. Try sending PM’s to your regular readers, or to other people who might seem interested in the topic you’re writing on. 2. Try commenting on other people’s posts – it will often motivate them to check out your own. Also, try participating in open calls. 3. If you have a Facebook account or are on some other social networking or writing site, tell people there that you’ve got a new post up on OS. 4. Send an email to your friends and family who might want to stop by and read.
If you write something and still aren’t sure if you should announce it here, ask yourself these questions:
1. If a reader sees this post tagged as fiction, will he/she think that it's been mislabeled?
2. Does my story belong on the FW stories list, or is it a non-fiction piece that will take a spot from someone who has put his/ her heart and soul into writing a fiction story?
3. If I didn’t know about the Fiction Club blog, would this be a post I’d categorize as fiction?
If you write something and you really don’t know if it belongs here, please feel free to PM me via my Alysa Salzberg blog (I rarely check the FW one’s inbox), if you want to know what I think. Or ask another OS friend.
Announcing a non-fiction piece in the FW stories list is kind of like tagging an historic monument. It says, “Fuck rules,” and it may get you some notice. But did you really want to deface that monument in the first place, or were you just thinking of your own agenda? Fiction writer or not, we all should know how hard it is to create good writing, and to get the attention of readers. I'd like to think that in the spirit of community, we could support each other.
I hope that clears things up.
*About the poster: If you've ever posted something that maybe wasn't quite fiction here, but didn't do it knowingly, this is not directed at you. If you've posted announcements of non-fiction here knowingly, I just think the image is funny and what it says are words to live by - for all of us.