Fact vs fiction

The line between fact and fiction is fuzzier than most people find it convenient to admit. There is the commonsensical assertion that while the novelist is engaged on a work of creative imagination, the duty of the journalist is to tell what really happened. That distinction is easy to voice but hard to sustain in logic. For imagination and memory are Siamese twins, and you cannot cut them so cleanly apart.

There’s a good case for arguing that any narrative account is a form of fiction. The moment you start to arrange the world in words, you alter its nature. ┬áThe words themselves begin to suggest patterns and connections that seemed at the time to be absent from the events the words describe.

Then the story takes hold. It begins to determine what goes in and what’s left out. It has its own logic and it carries the writer along with it. He may well set out to write one story and find that she’s writing quite another.

The more self consciously language is used, the more responsive the writer is to the medium in which he works, the more elaborate the fashioning is.

The naive storyteller will burden you with a mass of irrelevancies, which get into the story just because she remembers that they happened to be there; the sophisticated storyteller will fashion his contingencies so that they support or move is story forward; that is fiction making.

From Reality Hunger, by David Shields, 2010

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