03 August 2018

Support Your Local Fiction Writer

by Janice Law

I’ve been thinking lately about the human passion for stories, about need to convert the messy realities of the world into tidy narratives. Lately, it has gotten us into difficulties, what with tall stories seeded by reckless bloviators, Russian agents, and conspiracy theorists, not to mention loose charges of fakery whenever news displeases the powerful.

But the passion for stories doesn’t stop with lies for fun and profit. Consider sports broadcasts. Younger readers may be surprised to learn that before TV and the tell-all Jumbotron, broadcasters delivered a call of the game – interspersed admittedly with ads for beer and cigarettes – without relying on the Story Line. Many broadcasters also managed to do a complete baseball or football game or call a tennis or boxing match without the help of the now obligatory “color” commentators.

Well, times have changed. With video omnipresent, commentators with hours to fill now rely heavily on The Storyline. Often this is a story of Redemption, a word they are almost as fond of as preachers, or Triumphant Comeback, preferably from some dire illness – although legal troubles will do in a pinch.

Within these favorite narratives, we have personal rivalries – often carefully cultivated and promoted by the media – and heroic top players who are idolized until they start losing, whereupon they can be repurposed into a tale of Redemption. Unless, of course, the idol is a top coach. These gents are never in need of Redemption because they simply more on to another over the top salary or graduate to the commentary booth.

Is it any wonder that the younger generation seems more inclined to play video games?

What to do about these threats to national games and national politics? Return to truth in labeling and the people who tell stories for an honest ( and usually modest) living: your fiction writers. I can speak only for that subset, the mystery writer, but these are folks who tell stories that are clearly labeled Fiction. They don’t try to add a veneer to events without doing the hard work to turn the stuff of this world into a short story, a script, or a novel.

They are also up front about what they are doing – and they are pros. How often does the latest conspiracy theory fall flat over some preposterous premise? You needn’t worry about that with a member of the Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime or the Authors Guild.

Fed up with the familiar story lines and hackneyed phrases? Ditch the amateurs and start patronizing your local novelists, short story writers, and dramatists. These are folks who know their foreshadowing from their denoument and are well acquainted with the rising curve of suspense. They can handle multiple points of view, reliable and unreliable narrators, flashbacks and stream of consciousness. They can satisfy all your fiction needs.

So buy their books and subscribe to the magazines that still print real Fiction, not all the ersatz stuff that is around on the web and the tube. The legion of writers will thank you – and just maybe the body politic, too.


  1. I thank you, Janice! And ditto to everything you said.

  2. Good post. I've been polling people for a few years. Family, friends, acquaintences, neighbors, just about everyone I run into and find 90% do not read fiction. I cannot even get the people I dedicate my book to - to read the book. Then I'll get a email from a stranger who says something I wrote touched them. All right.

  3. Readers are among the jewels of the earth!

  4. I've always preferred reading fiction to TV, movies, or on-line, mostly because when I read, I create the images, not someone else. And I really, really like that.

  5. So true. And I find it so sad that my experience is similar to O'Neil's. Even my cousins, who profess to be proud of me, do not read my books. And yet...tens of thousands of other people do, apparently. One thing I like about teaching Crafting a Novel is most people - not all, but most people in the class are readers. My kind of people.

  6. I'm with O'Neil and Melodie. Most of my friends say they don't read fiction, and I don't think I've EVER seen one at any of my events. Thanks, guys.

    When I published my first novel, one of my theater friends, who knew I'd been an English teacher with three graduate degrees, demanded, "But why Mysteries???" as if I were writing porn. She didn't listen to my answer, but I know that since then, she has published several erotic novels--quite explicit at that, thank you very much--under a pseudonym!

    Has anyone pointed out how many nonfiction books are horrendously written? If you don't believe it, pick up any high school social science textbook (history, sociology, psychology, anthropology, etc) and see if it even sounds like English. Sure, there's less than wonderful prose in lots of genre work, too, but NONE of it is as bad as textbooks.

    I don't see why mystery stories, or crime, or whatever you call them, are such a guilty pleasure. They were good enough for Shakespeare, Sophocles, Dickens, and Twain, just to name a few.

    Oddly enough, several of the guys I play guitar with at open mics have bought AT LEAST one of my novels, and a couple of them have even reviewed them positively. Go figure.

  7. And Janice, what would kids today say if they knew that years ago, some sportscasters "coverage" of the game was from a script and the game wasn't being played!

  8. True- those were delayed broadcasts and I believe how Ronald Reagan got his start!

  9. Good column. Sorry for this late response.


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