Why write fiction? Why read it?
People enjoy stories because they are both like and not like real life. Fiction holds up a mirror to real life, but it’s a magic mirror: ideally it is shapely in a way that life generally isn’t, with a clear arc: of rising action, a sense of change, of forward motion. It leaves out the boring and irrelevant bits.
The successful distillation of life situations to their essence requires — what? Increasingly I think the whole goal of fiction is to make the implausible seem, by a series of subtle, almost imperceptible steps, vividly possible.
I’ve been thinking about this in the context of what did and did not work in Pam Mingle’s “Kissing Shakespeare” and Shannon Hale’s “Austenland” and two novels that would seem to have little in common, other than that I’ve recently read them, and that they involve the effort to assume the manners and customs of another time. Continue reading