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What is Fiction?

Some people believe the world around us is illusion. They think the things we see, feel and hear are merely ideas our minds create. If this is true, each experience we think we have, and that writers write about, is fictitious. Others believe everything is reality. Our minds don’t really imagine anything. If one follows this line of thinking there is no such thing as fiction. Instead, what we call fiction is really an amalgamation of all our experiences, all our thoughts, all our dealings with other people.

Humans like to think of themselves as creative creatures. In fact, anthropologists say one of the chief traits separating humans from other animals is our ability to be imaginative, to invent tools and ideas to suit our needs. But, what if this isn’t true?

When crafting a story where do a writer’s ideas come from? Do they come from some outside source we pull into ourselves and mix in a creative manner? Or, do the ideas for our stories really only come from inside of us, our experiences, thoughts, feelings and encounters with other people?

When crafting a story a writer’s first job is to create characters to fill the world of his story. To make the story believable, and to draw reader’s interest, the characters have to be as fully developed as possible. We give them a physical description. We give them a job. We even imbue upon them interests and hobbies. Where do all these things come from? Simply put, they come from the world we live in. The real world.

Twenty years ago I began my writing career as a journalist. I wrote about technology, sports, politics; almost everything. Where did I get the material for my articles? Mostly, I interviewed sources. During this process I amassed a great deal of information. Some of it I saved in files. Much of it found a home inside my head. So, when I decided to turn my efforts to “fiction” it seemed only natural to use some of the material I had learned over the years to create my characters and my world.

My Blind Traveler mysteries began after I’d written an article about a piece of technology to help a blind person navigate his environment. After extensive research about the device, I wanted to explore what would happen if the person using it suddenly found it malfunctioning. First, I created my protagonist, giving him a job in the world of computers, patterned after someone I know. Then, I gave him an interest in architecture and music, two of my personal interests. I put him in world under constant threat by earthquakes because, in the “real” world, at the time our planet seemed to be experiencing a major uptick in seismic activity. Finally, I crafted a situation where, because of the technological malfunction, my character would literally stumble upon a murder about to take place. Is this fiction or is it an extension of reality? I’ll let you decide. I’m interested in your thoughts on this.


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