Tuesday, August 18, 2015

The universal elements of strong fiction


“While all people are different, in some respects, we share the same cognitive and emotional repertoires. We all can feel horror, fear, lust, humor, anger, guilt, love, hate and every other emotional variant. And when we pick up a novel, we want to experience the mental and emotional lives of the characters, living vicariously through them. 
 Think of today's bestsellers, those that remain at the top of the charts for many weeks or months. They all have thought-provoking characters who rivet us. In Gone Girl, Nick and Amy Dunne capture us with their marital difficulties and myopically self-serving distortions. The Goldfinch focuses on Theo Decker, a troubled youngster struggling with the loss of his mother, dealing with a remote father, and trying to find his way through a duplicitous world. Whether it's All the Light We Cannot See, or The Nightingale, each story plumbs the pillars of existence: how and why the characters think, feel, and behave as they do.”

I don't have much to add to the above paragraphs in this post, except to note Cormac McCarthy's observation that all good fiction is ultimately about life and death. 

This doesn't have to mean physical death (although it often does), but always an existential crisis, at the very least.

If there is no crisis, then there is nothing worth writing about. 

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