The narrative difference between fiction and real life

You’ve probably heard some version of this saying: Fiction is real life without the boring parts.  I don’t know where this came from and am too lazy and under-caffeinated to google it but I agree with it.  I try not to write boring stuff.

Digression # 1  – Sometimes it is hard to tell what is boring or not.  A scene that takes me hours to perfect (and therefore feels tedious) can be read in under a minute and can feel exciting to the reader.  A friend working on a first novel recently texted me this:

Okay, so your narrative should not be boring.  It should also make an arc.  What the??   No doubt you’ve heard these fated words: narrative arc (the close cousin of a character arc, which might also make you shiver with dread).  The central conflict of the story must build in tension, come to a critical junction, and then resolve.

All the pieces (aka plot points, scenes, details, character choices) must fit this narrative arc.  Subplots as well as main plots weave together to form a cohesive story.  If you screw up the tension (peak too soon, have too many peaks, forget to have anything happen), the fictional narrative fails.

Digression #2 – I deeply regret that I can not tell you how to successfully do the aforementioned.  I muddle through with my own books.

But the point of this post was to point out a serious problem with real life not to tell you how to write a novel.  The problem with real life is that the pieces most definitely will not fit, and I so desperately want them too.  I want congruence.  I want a story that makes sense.  But shit happens–plot points that were NOT in my outline.  Then there I am, juggling multiple narratives that are most definitely NOT working together.

Digression #3 – Psychologists call this cognitive dissonance.

In my novels, I delete things that don’t fit my narrative arc.  (Actually, here is some solid writing advice: if it doesn’t work get rid of it).  In real life, the delete key is broken and I’m left with press enter to accept.  Then I get down to making meaning out of the hodge-podge.

Digression #4 – I put the mess into novels, where on occasion, the narrative behaves.



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