The Thesis pages are composed of several essays on writing I did previously for the blog. As they not only cover my thoughts on my own work but also talk about how I judge works, I thought it best to have them all in the same general location.
Note that I haven’t simply copied the original works. As links to these essays are displayed on every page, I have tried to refine them as best I can. I will continue to do so until they are as perfect as I can make them
On Writing in General
Every writer, no matter the field, promises to divert, to inform, or to provide some combination of the two. Failure to deliver on this promise leads to an unsatisfactory reading experience. Whether or not a story, poem, or essay fails is not always up to the writer. No matter how well a piece is written, there will be some people left cold by what they’ve read. Worse, there will be people who’ll be infuriated.
The only thing a writer can do is write the best, truest way possible. Which means make sure facts are straight, dates are right, and the last sentence written really says what it’s supposed to say. Clarity is a virtue, not a sin.
The fiction writer has additional concerns. The characters should behave in a believable way. For instance, the kindly family dog shouldn’t turn into a killer for no reason; there has to be a cause for the effect. The dog has gone rabid, or has been mistreat. Something like that.
On this, the story should continue on it way in an equally believable fashion. Cheats such as a deus ex machina (the gods rescuing the good guys) or a diabolus ex machina (the other team rescuing the bad guys) should be avoided like a hungry tiger searching for a little breakfast. When the story ends, whether with the protagonist in triumph or failure, the reader should be able to look back at what was read and say, “I believe that could happen.”
None of this is is engraved in stone. One can be long winded and not bore the audience; one can lower the gods from on high for a last ditch rescue and not alienate the audience. It’s just risky to do so. One would have to really know their stuff to get away with it, or be lucky enough to catch the reader in a good mood.
Subgenres of Fiction
Fiction can be divided into two main categories: Ordinary and Speculative. No one category is better or more worthy than the other, but the difference between the two is distinct.
Ordinary Fiction is of this world, following, taking from, and guided by what is known of the laws of science and nature, as well as the course of history. It covers the present and the past and only dips the tips of its toes into the future, if it does so at all.
In Ordinary Fiction the severed hand running around killing people is just the delusions of a madman. The dead husband haunting his wife turns out to be alive and seeking to drive her insane. The UFOs performing cattle mutilations are in truth stealth helicopters used by the government. If the supernatural is suggested, it is usually done in an ambiguous manner, or as a winking joke between the writer and those that know better.
On the other hand, Speculative Fiction deals with situations that are impossible or improbable, or with possibilities that may or may not come to pass. Things like physics and history can be tossed out the window or altered to suit the creator’s needs. It can cover past, present, and future with a will, or invent other worlds and other histories.
In Speculative Fiction, cities can be thinking entities, bent on enacting their will upon their citizens. A medieval town might decide they must be ruled by a magic lord. A world might exist as a disk on the back of a giant turtle. A future civilization come under the rule of the very machines they created to serve them.
As this blog is run by a writer of Speculative Fiction, Ordinary Fiction will seldom be discussed beyond what has been done in this essay. It should not be interpreted that there will be no Ordinary Fiction posted, nor will works of Ordinary Fiction be frowned upon as matters of debate or review. It just won’t happen very often.