Friday, February 21, 2014

Entry # 201 - "Fiction as The Real Deal"

In Thomas C. Foster’s book, How to Read Like a Professor, Foster says that not only does writing come from experience, but so does reading. He says, "Whatever the sources of the narrative, what matters ultimately for readers is the sense that this thing is genuine, that it has the solidity of the real deal." Readers draw from their own lives as they read. 
Photo Credit - Jan Bowman
Fiction must make us believe in a world filled with people who are credible renditions of real life, telling true stories that did not happen, and yet "fiction reveals truth in ways that feels right, feels authentic and counterfeit."  

Foster describes the difficulty writers face in trying to "make us [as readers] care about something that we never even thought about, and make it seem like our own idea." He calls this The Law of Novel Paradox: Novels grow out of intensely private obsessions, which writers then must make public and accessible to readers. They [writers] have to move from autobiography, or even diary, to public discourse."  Readers can only connect from their own experiences and a belief that what is described could be true, and yet the paradox is that as readers, "We treat fictional narrative as true, even while acknowledging that it is manifestly false." And it's quite a 'hat-trick' for writers of fiction, whether of short stories or novels, to view themselves as professional truth-tellers, while making it up as they go, drawing stories from the waters of their imaginations. I am thinking about this as I write a new story.
Photo Credit - Jan Bowman - Annapolis, MD - Bay
“Fiction cuts itself loose from the moorings of reality so that it can give pleasure, so that the imagination can run free of any constraints but its own."  --- Thomas C. Foster’s book, How to Read Like a Professor ==========================

About Jan Bowman
Winner of the 2011 Roanoke Review Fiction Award, Jan's stories have been nominated for Pushcart Prizes, Best American Short Stories, and a Pen/O’Henry award.  Glimmer Train named a recent story as Honorable Mention in the November 2012 Short Story Awards for New Writers. 
A recent story was a finalist for the 2013 Broad River Review RASH Award for Fiction, another story was a 2013 finalist in the Phoebe Fiction Contest; another was a 2012 finalist in the “So To Speak” Fiction Contest.  Jan’s fiction has appeared in numerous publications including, Roanoke Review, Big Muddy, The Broadkill Review, Third Wednesday, Minimus, Buffalo Spree (97), Folio, The Potomac Review, Musings, Potato Eyes and others. 
Coming Soon - Mermaids & Other Stories
She is working on two collections of short stories while shopping for a publisher for a completed story collection, Mermaids & Other Stories.  She has nonfiction publications in Trajectory and Pen-in-Hand. She writes a weekly blog of “Reflections” on the writing life and posts regular interviews with writers and publishers.   Learn more at: or  visit blog:


  1. Replies
    1. Thanks Bob. Looking forward to seeing you at the Bay-to-Ocean Conference.