Monday, December 30, 2013

The fiction/fact fraction faction

(Characters X plot = genre and length.) Are you Twitter folk quivering? Algebra fans, cringing? Relax.

Stories, be they journalism or fantasy, have a designated formula. For instance, if your newspaper editor tells you to write about a baseball game, the style and length of the piece will be determined by him at the sports desk. If you want to write a baseball story, the length and style are determined by you.

As fiction aficionados, we opt for the long, detailed story. Leave the facts to the journalists. Let them make the story as interesting as their genre allows. In truth, sports writers/journalists are the most fertile sources for fiction writing in the future. Remember Red Smith, Lewis Grizzard and Ellen Goodman, and recently Greg Gutfeld? These disciplined wordsmiths of concise facts and opinions are the fodder from which can come best-selling fiction and interest-based stories in their later lives.

American readers want a story, even in newspapers. The old inverted pyramid: who, what, where, when, and often how at the beginning of the article in a newspaper today is relegated to the second or third paragraph. Being an old-fashioned newspaper reader, I start reading in the middle and drift up to the once upon a time later—if I care.

And caring, making readers stay to find out what it’s all about is the trick. Readers crave a story, but the facts must be concise in their news media. In fiction, writers can get picturesque and mysterious. Fiction readers will stay with you through your characters’ machinations and misery.

In my current WIP, my main character’s issue is who is sperm donor number 00035.01.9689? Answer; her birth father. This has been explored in journalism, especially when Louise Brown was conceived in a petri dish and born July 25, 1978. (What a dish she is today!) Since then variations on the theme, surrogacy, fostering and adoption have been studied and will resurface in the news regularly. What is left out is the age old question any psychologist or psychiatrist would ask: “How does she feel about that?” Therein lies the tale we as fiction writers tell. This should be interesting. Will she look for him? Will she feel differently if she finds out what he’s really like? And who will help her break the codes that hold this information in strict legal privacy—in real life.

As a fiction writer, issue oriented, I’d like to introduce you to my new release, January 3, Morning After Midnight . The issue here is merging two distinctly different families with prejudices, one from the North and one from the South. You can tell from the cover that the action takes place in turbulent times and forces the lovers to rethink their values to find love between the States.

Julie Eberhart Painter is the Champagne Books author of Mortal Coil, Tangled Web, and the 2011 Book of the Year, Kill Fee, and sequel, Medium Rare. Daughters of the Sea is available from MuseItUp Publishing in e-book or paperback. Watch for Morning After Midnight, Jan 3. Visit Julie’s Web site at


Big Mike said...

Heard about the formula writing before but I try to fight it, except the part where ya have a hero and heroine of course. I've heard people on the forums talk about following the equation and I wonder why, why, why be part of a herd. Guess that's why I'll never hit the big times (g).

Michael Davis (
Author of the Year (2008 and 2009)
Award of Excellence (2012)

Julie Eberhart Painter said...

Mike, Nickolas Sparks is your male prototype. He used to sell drugs/pharmaceuticals.

Veronica Helen Hart said...

Truth is, few writers want to hear about formulas for their writing, but a further truth is, the most successful writers follow them - maybe unwittingly, but they do. We prefer to think of ourselves as unique artists creating something new. This reminds me of a Romance Writers workshop I went to years ago. We spent the day learning how to write for one of the major romance publishers. In the end, we learned you need a female of such and such age, a male who is a bit older, the must clash in the beginning, and on and on it went. At the end of the day, she said, "Now go write something original."

Julie Eberhart Painter said...

Ronnie, I shared the same irony class. Oh, and did they tell ou we must not let them get too far apart before they reunite? Always.

That's why I call it come to me and back away fiction.

Liz Fountain said...

Formulas might seem like constraints, but constraints nurture creativity. For me it's easier to think of the typical pattern of a fiction story, then vary that pattern like a weaver or knitter might - it's a unique piece, but it's recognizable as a sweater (or story). Or think about it in music - there's a formula for a pop song, and some of the very best pop songs follow it precisely. Others break it up. But they are all based on it, because listeners (or readers) bring the formula or pattern in their expectations - and then are surprised (either delightedly or dismally) by our variations.

Thought-provoking as always, Julie!


Julie Eberhart Painter said...

Liz, you're right about format vrs. formula. I call it discipline.