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Imagination, fabrication. Why write fiction?




In late 2023 I had the opportunity to catch up with an old workmate, a man named Justin. Apart from it being seven years since we last saw each other, it was of particular significance since at that time he'd asked me to announce his departure to our broader company division. Also, he quit audit to enter the clergy and become a priest.

Now, seven years later, he’s almost there, and is expecting to complete his endeavour in the coming 12 months. 

During our talk he regaled me with stories of his journey. It seemed I didn't have much to offer. At some point, however, it came up that I write fiction, and I told Justin about the novel I’m working on. As the conversation unfolded, the overlap between the fictional world generated in my imagination and the religious philosophy Justin has spent seven years studying became clear. While I myself am not religious yet see the evolutionary merit in religions more generally, it grew increasingly obvious that we were both grappling with the nature of existence, and were therefore at ease crossing into each other’s lanes. Despite the vast differences in viewpoint, on every meaningful matter we converged. 

I think this is the great superpower of fiction: when done well, it’s in some sense more real than reality. The symbolic aggregate of our everyday lives transcends the mere daily grind to resonate and grip us. On the other hand, when not done well it’s shallow, uninteresting, easily discarded. 

We know this instinctively. If I ask you to tell me the author you most admire and why, you can do so. If I tell you you’re wrong, give you another name, and ask if you admire this other author, you may well be able to manufacture a reason why you do, but my favourite author won’t truly replace your favourite author. 

This is our challenge as writers. When we delve into the depths of our own psyche and search the fog and darkness, we encounter with honest intent and discover truths not just about ourselves but the nature of the wider world.

Conversely, I believe that when we write with an intention to fabricate or contrive or impose the might of pre-formed notions on the narrative, the endeavour can collapse under the weight of disbelief. 

'By their fruits ye shall know them.'

Matt Jackson



 Could it be that imagination takes hold? A fictional example -


In a small interview room at the back of the Surry Hills police station, eighty-two-year-old Maurice Webb sat on a plastic chair, twiddling his thumbs and staring across the desk at a locked door.


With a click, the door swung open, and the familiar figure of Ms Alice Addison, the area social worker, walked in and sat opposite the elderly man on the other side of the table.


She looked at him across the top of her blue-framed glasses. 'We meet again, Mr Webb, and by the look of your written statement, it seems we are meeting under similar circumstances.'


'Nice to see you again, Alice,' Maurice replied as he sat with his arms folded and his unkempt white hair frizzled in all directions.


'Maurice, why do you persist with this fiction that you are stealing flowers from the florist at Central Station to give to your girlfriend? You have a vivid imagination, but you and I both know it’s a fabrication. That's why you've been charged with petty theft all over again.'


Maurice leaned forward and met her gaze. 'Alice, can I ask you a personal question?'


'Sure, Mr Webb.'


'Have you ever had an imaginary friend?'


Alice felt her shoulders drop and a lump form in her throat.


'So, was there anything you wouldn’t do for your imaginary friend?' he asked. 'If you really want the answer to why I wrote that fiction about stealing flowers for Vivienne, you should ask your friend.'


Alice stood up, walked to the door, and held it open for Maurice.


'Interview terminated,' she said. It's obvious he's dominated by his fanciful need to keep writing, she thought. A serial offender.


Maurice smiled at her as he rose to his feet. 'See you next time, Alice,' was his cheerful response.

Robert Carrick


Copyright: text - authors cited above; photos - Wix.

 

Posts on this Sydney School of Arts & Humanities blog (www.ssoa.com.au) are published to showcase the work of emerging writers who meet weekly to workshop their longer work: short stories, memoir or novels.

 

These posts comprise some of the responses written in just 10 minutes as a warm up to the meetings.


If you'd like to join any of our groups, contact us at sydneysoa@outlook.com 

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