Lessons in creating authentic fiction from Salman Rushdie

 In Richard Beynon's blog, Writing Craft

Writers, are often told to ‘write what you know’, but what does that really mean when we’re creating fictional worlds?

Richard’s recent subscribers only writing motivation mailer offered insights drawn from Salman Rushdie’s thoughts on storytelling.

Here are some practical tips for writing authentic fiction inspired by Richard’s essay.

  1. Ground your fiction in reality

Even in the most fantastical stories, readers need an anchor in the real world. Whether you’re writing about talking animals or alien civilizations, include specific, accurate details from our reality. This creates a foundation of believability for your readers.

  1. Capture emotional truths

The power of fiction lies in its ability to convey emotional truths. Rushdie points out that both realistic and fantastical stories can be equally ‘untrue’, but they resonate when they reflect genuine human experiences and emotions. Focus on making your characters’ feelings and reactions authentic, even in surreal situations.

  1. Embrace ‘fabulation’

Don’t be afraid to invent and imagine. Rushdie’s realisation that ‘somebody had made up’ the stories he loved as a child was liberating. Give yourself permission to create freely, knowing that all fiction is, at its core, an invention.

  1. Blend the fantastic with the familiar

Magical realism, as exemplified by Gabriel García Márquez’s work, demonstrates how to effectively combine surreal elements with realistic details. When introducing fantastical elements, root them in familiar emotions or experiences to make them more impactful.

  1. Pay attention to mundane details

Richard emphasises the importance of getting ‘pedestrian details right’. These small, everyday elements help create a sense of reality that allows readers to buy into your larger narrative.

  1. Use metaphor to convey truth

The example of blood flowing through city streets in One Hundred Years of Solitude shows how a metaphorical or surreal image can powerfully convey an emotional truth. Look for opportunities to use vivid, unexpected imagery to express deeper meanings in your work.

***

Remember, whether you’re writing realism or fantasy, the goal is to create a world that feels true to your readers on an emotional level. By grounding your fiction in reality, capturing authentic emotions, and allowing yourself the freedom to imagine, you can create stories that resonate deeply with your audience.

Would you like to read my subscribers only Monday Writing Motivation, The day I hooked Salman Rushdie?

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