Not Sure Why You're Writing Fiction? 4 Indisputable Reasons

Not Sure Why You’re Writing Fiction? 4 Indisputable Reasons

Do you know why you’re writing fiction? It’s a bit of a mystery. And yet it’s no mystery at all. “I write because I must” is the easy answer—the cop-out. When someone asks me why I write, the answer that immediately pops onto my tongue is a simple “because I love it.” But that, of course, begs the question why do I love it? And if we dig a little deeper, we realize I don’t write just because I love it; I also write when I hate it. It’s a compulsion that goes deeper than just simple pleasure. Even more interesting, it’s a compulsion that isn’t unique to me. It’s a compulsion the majority of writers share.

So why is it you’re writing fiction? Why do you have this deep need to put pen to paper and weave stories from your own experiences and imagination? Consider four indisputable reasons you really write.

1. We Love Stories

Most writers are also avid readers. We love stories. We love the wide-open horizons of a good tale–the endless possibilities, the vicarious adventures and relationships. It’s only natural we would want to extend that love into a hands-on experience.

2. Stories Help Us Figure Stuff Out

Characters Emotions and Viewpoint by Nancy KressWhen it comes right down to it, stories are about figuring things out. William Styron asked, “Isn’t all art a search for an answer to a question which can’t even be spoken?” Stories are questions. They’re explorations of life and humanity. In her book Characters, Emotions & Viewpoints, Nancy Kress pointed out:

[Stories] all create self-contained, imaginary worlds that make us feel the real world more vividly. After seeing Hamlet, hearing about George Washington and the cherry tree, or reading Anna Karenina, our world has been enlarged. We have not only felt things along with the characters (Hamlet’s rage, Washington’s integrity, Anna’s despair), we have received an additional lens through which to evaluate the world around us. This is true even when the stories are, say, a third-rate television sitcom. It’s still a metaphor for real life, and the reason we may reject it as “bad” is because we subconsciously decide the metaphor doesn’t fit life…

3. Writing Fiction Connects the World to Us

Bird by Bird by Anne LamottI find it interesting so many writers, myself included, tend to be introverts. Here we are creating hundreds of in-depth human beings for the page, and yet we struggle to understand and communicate with other people in real life. Or is it perhaps the other way around? That we tend to take a step back from the frenetic bustle of life and ask the questions (write the stories) about people and relationships, which then allow our characters to resonate on the page? Is it because we are seeking more than the obvious that we are able to better illuminate the common emotions we all share? In her writing-life memoir Bird by Bird, Anne Lamont says:

…so many of us can be soothed by writing: think of how many times you have opened a book, read one line, and said, “Yes!” And I want to give people that feeling, too, of connection, communion.

4. Writing Connects Us to the World

If I’m being honest, I have to admit the answer to my original question is, really, I write for myself. I write because I want to find the answers, because I want to understand and be understood. But it is also a prayer of my heart that somehow my ramblings might find a place in the bigger picture, that they might resonate with even just one reader and form that invisible, ineffable line of connection between my soul and the soul of another.

My heart hurts for people who disparage art, including fiction, as a waste of time. They are missing so much. Life is a story; stories are life. Lamont again:

[Our writing matters] because of the spirit, I say. Because of the heart. Writing and reading decrease our sense of isolation. They deepen and widen and expand our sense of life: they feed the soul. When writers make us shake our heads with the exactness of their prose and their truths, and even make us laugh about ourselves or our life, our buoyancy is restored. We are given a shot at dancing with, or at least clapping along with, the absurdity of life, instead of being squashed by it over and over again. It’s like singing on a boat during a terrible storm at sea. You can’t stop the raging storm, but singing can change the hearts and spirits of the people who are together on that ship.

That is why I’m writing fiction.

Tell me your opinion: Do you know why you’re writing fiction?

Not Sure Why You're Writing Fiction 4 Indisputable Reasons_edited-1

 

Sign Up Today

hwba sidebar pic

Sign up to receive K.M. Weiland’s e-letter and receive her free e-book Crafting Unforgettable Characters: A Hands-On Introduction to Bringing Your Characters to Life.

About K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland

K.M. Weiland is the award-winning and internationally-published author of the acclaimed writing guides Outlining Your Novel, Structuring Your Novel, and Creating Character Arcs. A native of western Nebraska, she writes historical and fantasy novels and mentors authors on her award-winning website Helping Writers Become Authors.

Comments

  1. Wonderful post! I agree with you when you say that fiction is NOT a waste of time. There’s so much to glean and learn from books.

  2. Fiction is a brave new (old) world. Sadly, it also seems to be one that fewer and fewer people are spending the time to discover.

  3. I am one of those people who spend more time reading instructional books than fiction. This why I enjoy your posts so much! They are filled with great insight. Keep with your writing and soon I may become a fictional convert myself!

  4. Thanks! The more converts, the better! 😉

  5. Lorna G. Poston says

    Katie…wow. Excellent post. Every time I read something you have written, I am amazed again and again that your wisdom and insight surpasses most people twice or even three times your age. (I mean that as a compliment)

  6. Thank you, Lorna. If there’s any wisdom in what I write, it comes from Someone bigger than me. 😉

  7. ooooooooooo!!!!!!!!

    awesome post…….if you say….i can read this post….my whole life again and again….
    such…a awesome,neat,smooth…..post……

    no more words to speak……
    🙂

  8. Then I’m guessing this is why you write too, huh? 😉

  9. I was looking through some of your earlier blog posts, and I really like this one. For one, I just got done writing a post about this subject literally several minutes ago. My answer: because it’s a part of who I am. I like how you dug a bit deeper into it. But really, who has a complete answer for why they love what they love? I love writing because it brings me joy, because I’m good at it, and because I feel so accomplished by doing it. I’m more of a blog post writer than anything, but I also started writing fiction recently, so I really like your answer about bringing stories to life and that “stories are life.”

  10. I think I should clip it in my “daily motivater dosage” file. 😀

  11. Steve Mathisen says

    Katie, this is spot on. Some of the reasons you list for writing though, keep me from writing because I am afraid that what I write is so much junk that will never communicate what is inside me. So, I don’t write. The pressure is building up to the point where I will need to write again soon. Perhaps knowing that whatever I write will not be like anything anyone else has ever done is good too. I might use techniques and elements that others use, but my story will be unique in some way. No one else has my stories inside of them. That is a reason to write also.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      I ponder a lot on what it is that makes writing a “success” or a “failure.” And I think so many of those designations are arbitrary and self- (or society-) imposed. Who cares if what we write (in the first draft, at any rate) is any good? Who cares of it’s original? As long as it moves us and is something we’re passionate about and that we enjoy writing, that’s what matters in the beginning.

  12. Thanks, Kim, for reminding us all of some great “reasons” for an often unreasonable pursuit! The first answer that came to my mind is “surprise.” I’m always surprised that I can be given a prompt or have an idea and by moving my fingers around something flows out from my head that is made up yet feels completely real to me. It seems like magic – that’s reason enough for me!

  13. Ditto! Ditto! Ditto! Ditto! You said it beautifully.

    I write because, otherwise, I’ll go crazy. It helps me find my center. It provides me a means to sort out my emotions, thoughts, fears, relationships, questions, and curiosities. I write because it’s comforting. I write because I want to form that connection you mentioned with a reader, because I want to impact someone in a positive way. I write because it is the gift God has given me.

    Awesome post, Katie!

  14. I was so encouraged by this article! As a fiction lover, and passionate fiction writer, this gave me a solid encouragement boost. Writing fiction is important–and yet often viewed as a luxury. In some ways I suppose it is, and yet it’s an intrinsic part of some people’s souls–because life, after all, is part of God’s story. And we want to imitate it.

    ~Schuyler

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      It’s not a luxury. It’s a necessity. I adamantly believe that. Societies without stories crumble away.

  15. Hating to be the contrarian, I must point out the last three reasons are resultant benefits rather than core drivers. They may help you stay motivated after the fact, but they are the cart and not the horse. As for the first reason, it is but a variant of the alleged copout herein so easily dismissed.
    Sorry… I got my British voice going today. 😉

  16. Shahjehan Khan says

    I write because, the stuff I cannot do in real life I just imagine it in my fantasy and make it in a short novel. If I am older, I ask myself what could I do if I was a teenager in this situation and the possibilities of story lines from a paranormal romance.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      Writing gives us the opportunity live beyond the comparatively narrow scope of our own lives. It’s a time machine and a transmogrifier all in one!

  17. I write fiction because it was the best way to talk about things from my past. I think that if I wrote it as fact, people wouldn’t believe it.

  18. I write to give myself somewhere else to be, to escape. When I began my first novel manuscript, I was verging on desperate. Putting myself in the story setting gave me a few hours each day of respite.

    Because I’ve also always read to escape, I’m hoping that someday my novel will give some reader that option.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      I used to dislike the idea that fiction was “escapist,” mostly because it made stories sound as if they were nothing more than shallow entertainment. But I’ve come to realize there’s great power in escapism and, in many instances, it can be a profound gift–especially when the story not only lets us escape problems but helps us learn how to be better equipped to handle them.

      • One of my friends wrote an article about the difference between consolation and escapism. It’s not on the internet, so I can’t link to it, but she said for Christians, fiction is consolation–seeing the hope of happy endings and taking a break from the temporary hardships of the present to live in the victory and fulfillment of the story.

  19. I like going on the adventure of the story at the same as my characters. I like that it’s a space to feel the uncomfortable feelings that I might not be ready to deal with in life. I’m a big dork that actually loves the challenge of constructing a story.

    And it’s always been my favorite form of magic. You’re one place – someone speaks or writes a few words – and they’ve taken you and your mind to another place. Magic!

  20. thomas h cullen says

    Whether its the recent Scottish referendum, or the next US presidential election, or whatever, I wrote The Representative to show people the world over something insurmountably higher.

    Something they can embrace like never before. Something, that they can finally never want to forget like ever before.

  21. robert easterbrook says

    I write for some of those reasons. But the thing that bugs me, is why some people want to criticize me for not writing a best seller. I find this attitude weird. If I write a best seller, well, that’s fine, but if I don’t, that’s fine too. Why does something I write have to be the next big thing?

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      For better or worse, artists are held to a higher standard than other professionals. Few people will complain if their plumber isn’t the World’s Greatest Wrench Man.

  22. This post is so spot on! I agree with all four points. I’m truly amazed by every post you write!

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.