Author wrestles with the 'Fiction vs Nonfiction' question
|SELECTED PROMPT: 4) Pro's and con's of 'Writing Fiction Vs. Nonfiction'
“Hey, Abberan! What are you doing?”
Daphne approached, bouncing along the flagstone walkway. She was her usual bubbly self and a perfect fit for this warm summer afternoon.
“Hi, Daphne. Right now, I'm stumped,” replied Abberan, sitting back in his chair as he removed the cellophane wrapper from the cigar.
“I'm trying to write something for my grandchildren.”
The wrought iron table, the centerpiece of the gazebo, was full of notes. A slight breeze would send them flying.
“A story?” asked Daphne.
“Maybe. I want to tell them some of the life lessons I've learned over the years,” he replied.
“Oh. Heavy stuff.”
Abberan continued. “I've been reflecting on the important things I've learned and when I learned them.”
Abberan was a small man who loved big cigars. His wiry frame was topped with a full head of snow-white hair and a Stubble beard.
The gazebo sat in the middle of a large manicured lawn overlooking the river — the perfect place to think and enjoy a cigar. Today’s choice was a ‘Perdomo 20th Anniversary’. He preferred the Churchill, they lasted longer.
“So, you're doing an autobiography?” Daphne asked.
“Heavens no. They wouldn't even open the book if I gave them a list of Grandpa's great adventures,” Abberan said, laughing as he clipped the end of his cigar.
“Well, what then?”
Abberan lit his cigar as he reflected. “Many valuable lessons came to me later in life — in my 40s and 50s. How much better would it have been had I known them in my 20s or even teens? How many more years could I have applied that wisdom?”
Even casually, Abberan was well-dressed. Today, a white short-sleeved shirt over pale blue seersucker slacks separated by a red and blue cloth belt was the garb. Dark blue canvas deck shoes completed the look.
“So, what's the dilemma?”
“Fiction or nonfiction: a story or an essay,” said Abberan.
Daphne had beauty that took a bit to grasp. Tall and thin, her bright red hair, page-boy cut, crowned a face lit up by green eyes and a perpetual smile. She picked up the conversation. “How many lessons?”
“I've boiled it down to five.”
“A book of five essays,” Daphne asked, “or one essay with five parts?”
“Not sure yet,” replied Abberan. “But either way, they each would have to be complete in themselves.”
“An essay would be shorter than a story, and easier to write,” Daphne said.
“Yes. But I fear it would be boring for a teenager,” he replied.
“You could do it in outline form, with headings and subheadings.”
Abberan screwed up his face, and his blue eyes twinkled. “Daphne, would you read such a tome? So boring.”
“You could include examples …”
“Have to,” he said, drawing on the cigar.
“… that would let you explain cause and effect.”
“I fear it would be very preachy.”
“So, what are the options with fiction?” Daphne wanted to explore the other possibility.
Abberan thought a bit, rolled the ash from his cigar, then spoke. “Well, I can think of proverbs, fables, or full-blown stories.”
“I don't think proverbs or fables will give you enough room to work.”
“I agree,” he said. “I’m thinking a long short story, a novella, or novel.”
“That could become a very big job,” she said, her head tilted quizzically. “Are you ready for that?”
“You would have to develop characters, a plot, a conflict, a setting … and then you would have to bury your lessons within that story.”
Abberan’s mind had drifted elsewhere. “Daphne, have you ever heard of The Goal by Eli Goldratt?”
“No,” she said, shrugging as she sat down across the table from Abberan.
Abberan explained. “Back in the '80s, Toyota, Honda, and Volkswagen were killing our auto industry. Several people knew how to fix it, but Detroit wouldn't listen. They knew it all. Goldratt decided to bury his management ideas in a fast-paced novel. It became a hit, still is, now in its 30th edition. He got his message out because he found a way to get people interested.”
“Can you write dialogue?”
“Never tried,” Abberan admitted. “Maybe I can write it without dialogue.”
“Don't even think about it,” Daphne exclaimed, her voice proclaiming authority. “A story has characters and characters have to speak. You think an essay would be boring. A story without dialogue? … Give me a gun.”
Abberan looked at Daphne with that ‘wish I was thirty years younger’ look. She was the picture of summer with her white shirt, faded blue jeans, and white canvas sneakers.
“I would have to find a way to add suspense and tension.”
“Yes, you would. Remember, I said an essay would be easier.”
Abberan continued, “I think fiction would provide more emotional appeal.”
“Yes. And probably do better holding a teenager's attention,” Daphne said.
“Nonfiction is very objective, while fiction lets you be subjective,” she continued.
“Fiction lets you explore multiple POVs,” Abberan said. “Nonfiction restricts you to just the author POV.”
“Nonfiction focuses on the exterior while fiction lets you go deeply to the interior,” Daphne said as she stood from the table.
Abberan said, “Fiction has a theme and follows an arc.”
“So, what do you think?” he summarized. “Fiction or nonfiction — story or essay?”
“I guess I need to know,” she asked, “what are the five lessons you want your grandchildren to learn?”
Abberan looked at her. “Ahh, dear Daphne, that is for their eyes only,” he replied with a broad smile and a twinkle in his eye.
Abberan observed the lit end of his cigar, now well into the final third. A fine brown sugar finish, he thought.
Word Count: 945