Fact or Fiction

Despite studying fiction in my youth I have grown impatient with its lack of clarity or truth and have recently tended to read biographies and tales of factual adventure in its stead. Recently, because it has been in the news, or in something or other anyway, I have been reading ‘The Great Gatsby’, and my thoughts have undergone a noticeable change. In this novel the character’s , although products of Fitzgerald’s imagination act in a realistic manner and respond to events as  people I know of might do, given those circumstances.

The author does not change their nature in order to serve a twist in the plot, or reveal them to be the secret spawn of a Marshmallow bent on world domination, but held in check by the menacing presence of some custard creams. No, they move as people move and hold truths within them that people hold. Not all these truths are pleasing, but watching the blending of events with the natures of the individuals seems almost like watching two cars crash from a cliff top high above the road. We can see it coming but cannot prevent it.

Good literature, I realise, illuminates the truth and makes what we already know more real to us in our everyday lives. It is heightened reality, but reality nevertheless and thus nourishing. Gaining insight from other’s imagination is never a waste of time. Fantasy or soap operas where the principles may change their character more often than their wardrobe distract us, but does not necessarily feed us: that is the big difference. Don’t get me wrong, I love trash as much as the next man, and more than most, and have the wardrobe to prove it. Time is precious to so these days I get my trash fix from television and leave my reading for more reflective moments: I am a puritan in such matters. Medication has been prescribed but has been of no assistance in the matter.

The reason I mention this I am attempting, or to be more positive I am in, the middle of writing a book and one of the questions I keep asking myself is, “Am I reacting to events or are the characters. Am I a god or just the observer”. Writing a blog is a bit like building a small wooden rowing boat. Not an easy thing, but achievable with practice. Writing a novel is like suddenly being asked to build a three-masted schooner. For now my only wish is to make her water tight and this obsession is preventing me from visiting your Blogs as much as I like. For those of you whom I consider to be my friends, and you may know who you are, I apologise and promise I will be back to my more regular production once my craft is built and safely on her maiden voyage to a harbour where, we trust, a decent supply of fattening food and fizzy drinks will be available to celebrate her safe arrival. Hick.


About Peter Wells aka Countingducks

Trying to remember what my future is
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39 Responses to Fact or Fiction

  1. Beth says:

    Oh, Ducky… maybe it’s because I had to study the book and all its symbolism when I was a junior in high school (11th year), but I loathe that book! 🙂 I’m, um, symbolism-challenged so the whole New Egg/Old Egg, green junk went right over my head… It is considered to be a classic, though, by many who know literature… so enjoy!


  2. Delightful. I shall get the champagne ready.


  3. Dylan Hearn says:

    Are your characters surprising you? The further through the writing process I was on my book (or I should say am, I’m still not finished yet), the more my characters behaved in ways that were right, but surprising. It was then that I realised my characters were channeling me and not the other way around.


  4. Abby says:

    That’s why I could never write a work of fiction. Well, there are many reasons, but some are a) constant dedication to one common storyline/character/plot b) separating myself from the characters and c) having the patience to fill in the middle instead of just a start and an end. I give you all the credit in the world, my friend, and I have no doubt you will be successful and your characters will show themselves loud and clear. There’s always a small piece of the author behind every name and face in a story, and with you, that would be a good thing. 😉


  5. catterel says:

    Gatsby is one of those books I can always go back to and find something i hadn’t noticed before, even though it’s relatively short. I look forward with immense pleasure to seeing your schooner finished and in full sail 😀


  6. Ooh, this is exciting news!!
    You enjoy getting your ship afloat! I will still be here, building my small wooden boat, and enjoying it too! : good luck with it and heres to fizzy and corks popping! (lemonade in my case!!!)


  7. Based on your blog and the snippets of story you put here, I am sure your vessel will not only be watertight but positively beautiful. It’s one thing to build any old raft with what you find in the scrapheap and another to build the Golden Hind. Just don’t introspect too long before writing…after all there are those of us out here that want to smack the bottle of champagne on her prow and see her sail!


  8. “Good literature, I realise, illuminates the truth and makes what we already know more real to us in our everyday lives. It is heightened reality, but reality nevertheless and thus nourishing. Gaining insight from other’s imagination is never a waste of time.”
    ….OUTSTANDING observations Counting…you certainly NEVER waste mine 🙂


  9. I look forward to the finished craft with immense anticipation. If it is to be anything like your blog short stories then it will be crafted with all the beauty and grace of a Stradivarius, and hence will be just as beautiful in its construction as in its story.
    Gatsby is one of those classics I have always meant to read, and, to my shame, have not. I will rectify this forthwith… May the Gods of writing continue to smile upon you!


  10. Purely.. Kay says:

    Gatsby is simply a classic. There is just something about the book that allows me to dream and transform into another world. I absolutely love the book and I definitely want to read it again. I know it might be taboo to read things again but I just can’t wait too 🙂


  11. I agree with you to a certain degree about characters. However, there is something very odd about human behavior that has had the field of psychology stumped basically forever.

    It’s like we all want everyone to have this “personality” and because of a need for stability, that is assumed to be consistent. Then something happens. A person changes, perhaps just for a short time. What I’m talking about is state versus trait. We like to think that the “trait” part dominates, but I’d say that is far from reality. In terms of fiction, the issue is whether the changes, when they happen, are believable.


  12. Good luck with building and launching your craft and may its maiden voyage be blessed. 🙂


  13. ***Good literature, I realise, illuminates the truth***

    YES. YES. YES. If it does not, pardon my French, it is pure sh*t!
    If it is not, who could relate to the words?

    Fiction is based on Truth. As long as the characters’ in your novel are relatable, flawed, and believable, you need not worry, Peter.

    PS, the GREAT GATSBY is based on Fitzgerald’s life. I believe most fiction is.
    PSS, Looking forward to reading your novel, Peter.


  14. erickeys says:

    I’m glad you’re taking the time to focus on this project. I’ll miss seeing your comments on my blog. Not that you comment all that often, but their scarcity is made up for by my respect for the man commenting. I hope your novel goes well and look forward to seeing it on the shelf.


  15. Al says:

    Will miss your visits Peter, but with success comes sacrifice and I wish you all great success.

    If and when that ship faces storm-tossed seas and other perils, feel free to seek safe harbor with thecvillean. You know what they say, “any port in a storm!” I’ll keep a rum cream pie in the fridge.


  16. I think where many writers come unstuck is not knowing what they want to say. They have a plot and the characters in the story serve to enact the plot, willy-nilly. If the author has something to say, he/she has to choose the right characters to say it, then let them get on with it. Having a plot with no characters is putting the cart before the horse. Gatsby is a case in point. Gatsby is a character. Add Daisy as his dream and you get the story that move inexorably under its own momentum to its tragic end.


  17. aawwa says:

    An interesting post. I always enjoy reading your blog and it is clear that you have quite a talent at writing! Good luck and persistence with the novel 🙂


  18. Jane Thorne says:

    Writing from the heart the style flows naturally and the character are ‘alive’ warts and all…with you on this one. Can’t wait to read your book P. 🙂


  19. Ooh a novel, wonderful! Good luck with it . I will still be here working on my little wooden boat! 🙂


    • I just wandered over to my Spam folder and found some comments from you in it. I just wanted to apologise on behalf of the management and say I’ve no idea how this happens. We’ve been commenting on each other’s Blogs for ages, and I thought WordPress would recognise that. Anyway, you’ve been restored to your normal and rightful status and I hope it will not happen again.


  20. Thanks for letting me know Peter! When I posted this latest comment I had great difficulty and I thought WP must be up to its antics again!! At least we now know we are back to normal hopefully!! Now go and hoist the main sail or whatever it is that is hoisted! 🙂


  21. Great analogy using the boat. I’ve never undertaken this task, but I would imagine you do it one nail at a time. 🙂 Either way, may her maiden voyage be on calm waters and received by many as she docks.


  22. araneus1 says:

    Bon Voyage and may your god speed you to your destination……….. I’m deadly envious!


  23. Caroline says:

    All the best my friend. Your book, when launched, will be awaited by so many


  24. gotham girl says:

    Bon Voyage! This is so exciting!


  25. nelle says:

    Heightened reality, yes. An apt observation.


  26. babs50nfab says:

    I am so excited you are working on a book, Peter!! I cannot wait to read it, whenever it comes out. I’m fully aware of how long it takes, and the re-write process, etc. So, take your time…we’ll be here waiting! Besides, it’s summer and most of us are posting and commenting less anyway. Relax, enjoy the process!!
    Carry On!!


  27. kate4samh says:

    It is really not fair that you do non fiction posts just as well as the excellent fiction you write! On the plus side, your own voice is my favourite of all those you’ve given life on your blog x


  28. I’m with you all the way, Peter – so thrilled you are writing a novel. All you say in this post is so true and relatable (for me). Having written one novel (well, I have written others, but one that I let anyone see) and on the last stretch with a second it continues to be a challenge to, as you say, ‘ (blend the) events with the natures of the individuals’. My most satisfying writing (and, I think, successful) is letting the story build through the characters … and not just by telling it as some omniscient observer. I wish you happy writing but also perseverance and patience to keep going. You are a wonderful writer and I KNOW that can translate into a wonderful piece of full length fiction! 🙂


  29. Christine says:

    I am so excited for you! I was telling my husband that you’re writing a book after your last comment and he said “about what”? and I got so wonderfully curious. You’re an amazing short story teller which I feel is rare and I look so forward to seeing what’s to come:)

    P.S. I never tire of hearing people comment in similar ways. I love creating photo stories about the intimate details of nature and love hearing how it inspires, even if it’s the same comment, thanks for taking the time to share and so glad you’re focusing on YOU and this wonderful project!


  30. I’m delighted to know that you are writing a novel! And I understand how that endeavor takes time away from this one (reading and commenting on blogs). I have had to make similar adjustments in my life (as you know).

    As for your trepidations about characters and truth, I have a feeling that your instincts are spot-on. At some point you and your characters come to an agreement. They will tell you where they want to go. You, then, just have to listen to make sure the direction makes sense with what you are trying to accomplish with your novel.

    I have been surprised as I write my novel at the dialog and actions that some of my characters come up with. It’s as if they exist somehow separately from me. I know that’s not true, but that’s how it feels. I have learned not to second-guess them. They know what they are doing.

    It’s an odd feeling, this novel writing business. Anyone who hasn’t done it will not understand.


  31. Yay! You go, guy, you will surely succeed. And we will surely be here awaiting and cheering for your success. Loving the way you always capture what matters – truth in fiction – time – writing – felt it myself. My first four never submitted fiction novels were my writing “apprenticeship,” my 5th non-fiction hopefully will be finished by the end of this year. Then off to the two fiction works -one creative non-fiction of my mom’s life – the other a story to outrival Fatal Attraction at the box office, lol. See? You give me hope, even when you are not here. Thanks, Peter, for everything and just write with your heart. Lorna is right! It always shines through. No matter what. Much success to you always 🙂


  32. Pingback: My thoughts on Writing | Literature and Lattes

  33. lexborgia says:

    My money is on the custard creams. Don’t forget your life-vest. Cheers.


  34. solarexpert says:

    How nice to have a famous friend…. just like JK Rowling I think PL Wells has a certain ring to it and perhaps you might take the proceeds and buy our house (Wells Farm) to write the second novel


  35. You’re writing a book! So good to know!:D I wish you all the best, and many mugs of herbal tea.


  36. Raising a scotch to you! I am sure your fair schooner will guide us all into port calm from the storm. Wish you the best on this journey!


  37. I can identify with your boat analogy – I must get on with my book too. It is feeling like I am an observer in some parts (I read them back and think did I write that?) some of it seems to have written itself… (cue Xfiles music 😉 ) Hope yours is going well.


  38. Dawne Webber says:

    I’ve been at the same place you’re at (it’s funny we haven’t run into each other), trying to get some writing done. Taking a breather to drop by and say hello. I miss chatting with you and wish you all the best with your writing.


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