This post was written in response to someone who dared to suggest in my hearing that non-fiction trumps fiction. (Don’t worry, we’re still on speaking terms!)
My defence of fiction (firstly, let’s make sure we’re on the same page)
Firstly, we cannot include the Bible in this debate. I believe that the Bible stands alone as the Word of God, a sacred text, written by the Divine. It is Truth embodied.
Secondly, we can’t say one is better than the other. To do so is to misunderstand the debate. They are both literary genres. Neither is the exclusive bulwark of Truth, although both embrace it. Non-fiction does not have the exclusive rights to ‘objectivity,’ to ‘practicality,’ or to ‘clarity’. Neither does fiction alone protect the last vestiges of ‘creativity,’ of ‘beauty,’ or of ‘refreshment’.
Fiction fulfils a different purpose to Non-fiction, but it is of equal importance, and thus deserves equal attention. This is my proposition. These, then, are my arguments:
I’m forever on a quest to discover why I like what I like. Join me on a foray into ‘types’ of fictional characters and why we as readers like them.
Who or what are socially disadvantaged characters?
Socially disadvantaged characters are those who are oppressed by their society. They have little power to change the (sometimes horrific) world they live in. They are often children, poor, slaves or people of a marginalised race.
For all this, these socially disadvantaged are often the heroes of their tales. In ‘rags-to-riches’ narratives the reason for this is obvious, but there are many other stories where they play central parts – so why are they so popular?
There’s a book I’ve been writing for a long time, and it’s gone through many evolutions. It began when I was fifteen or sixteen and I read something online which made me wonder: what would the Sherlock Holmes series have been like if Holmes and Watson met during the Anglo-Afghan war?
Then I thought: what would it have been like for any two people of such distinct personalities to meet in a trench? What if a masterful, proud man was terrified of the war – what if he were battle shy or blood sick yet refused comfort? How would another character uncover his secret and comfort him?
But then I asked: well, what if there was more than this masterful character’s personality standing in the way? What if there was some huge social divide – and offering comfort became a question of morality rather than mere humanity?
What if the masterful, proud, terrified man was a murderer?