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Why do we need desperately to write fiction (especially when no one wants to read it?)

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As I mentioned earlier, there are roughly 100 billion and 2 amateur writers in the world.

398 million of these are people who write science fiction and fantasy, and every single one of them is telling the same story over and over and over.

Isn’t that odd? Ok my numbers might be a little exaggerated, but I think I’m right that most amateur writers out there found a story they really liked – someone else’s story – and they’re just repeating it – rewriting again and again stories that have already been made into books, movies, tv shows, plays, video games, facebook apps, and dungeons and dragons scripts.

So why do so many of us feel so compelled to keep retelling these same stories over and over again?

Particularly – why do we feel compelled to do this when most of us don’t really want to read anyone else’s amateur stuff?

What’s wrong with us?

It would be easy to tell some plausible story about evolution and the value we gained as a species through learning to share information. Ethically, you can see that being able to enter emotionally into other people’s stories and find them compelling probably helped us become more cooperative creatures.

But why fiction? Why does being moved by fiction compel us so deeply to tell imaginary tales of our own?

My theory – and let’s be clear, this is based on nothing but wild speculation – but my theory is that our primary impulse is not to create a new story but to retell one that moved us. I believe that most amateur writers are doing this, deliberately or not.

They don’t want to tell a new story. They want to relive a powerful experience.

The problem, of course, is that those of us looking for something good to read want something new. We don’t want a second rate retelling of a story we’ve already heard a hundred times.

So our impulse to repeat stories (possibly rooted in our evolution, I speculate again without basis) drives the massive quantities of amateur writing out there.

But those people who want to stand out in the crowd and find a new audience must fight this impulse to retell in order to find something new to say.

Because readers don’t want to read the same story over and over again. We want to experience something new and powerful, something that catches our attention in the din of the trillions of stories out there.


About cjsand

Writing twisted fiction

5 responses »

  1. writingwindandsand

    I agree with your “theory” as to why we keep writing fiction, retelling the same stories again and again. But in addition to writing something based on something we read that moved us, I would add another motive–to write something we’re not, something that approximates ideal, wished for versions of who we are, or at least different versions. The same holds for the world; many writers create worlds they believe are better, or more interesting, than the ones they live in (the inspiration for much of science fiction and fantasy writing). As you can see, I too am prone to speculation.

  2. I agree – people want to express their visionary worlds, too –

    And hopefully that impulse leads people to write something new rather than just retelling a story that moved them –

    Not that it’s bad to retell – I think good stories require both new and old elements – possibly blue elements too

  3. As a reader, I find nonfiction to be limited in scope. I feel there’s a lot more truth to be found about life and human nature in crafted stories than accounts about “real life” incidents. And sometimes ideas are best explained through metaphor.

    • This is what happens when you write comments half asleep! They end up being half irrelevant.

      Anyway, a favorite author of mine is of the opinion, that writers write stories because they HAVE TO write. Or something to that effect.

  4. not at all irrelevant! Good points –


    I don’t know.

    I do feel like I HAVE to write fiction. But then its such a struggle to make myself do it – which is why I’m wondering why I feel like I HAVE to write it (which I do).


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