Reflections of an Amateur Literary Journal Editor: Part 1,”Good Fiction”

 

 

Hello?

*cough cough*

*clears throat*

*echo, echo, echo, echo*

Well damn, everybody is dead. ‘Tis a shame, but hey, I’M still alive so no real loss, right?

RIGHT!

Well, hello there, I didn’t see you come in. Now that you’re here though, I suppose you could take a seat and listen to my ramble. That sounds like a good use of your valuable time, doesn’t it?

 

I thought so. But first, some explanation!

 

I noticed that I have not touched this blog for over one-hundred days… this saddens me. For my brief time that I spent actively updating my blog, I did very much enjoy it, so here I am trying to get back into it. I’ve been on my summer break for a couple of months now and have since been very busy, mostly with things that I’ll be elaborating on later. Such things include a pitch to NBC’s Comedy Playground, two television show ideas for my campus’ television channel, my first novel, its publication, its prequel, and its potential sequel. Plus a lot of other things that I’m sure I can conjure up. In a way, I’m a little happy that I stopped blogging when I did- my most recent semester kept me very busy and I frankly didn’t have much to talk about.

But now, ye tiny mortals, lament and despair! Because now I have stuff to talk about again.

 

I have always wanted to use this blog as a medium for discussion regarding all manner of fiction things. This includes the creative process, prospective projects, character and idea development, and really anything that can inspire a dialogue that relates to creating works of fiction. So that’s what I’m going to be up to- filling this blog with all manner of reflections, discussions, and other “-ions” words that I can’t be bothered to think of right now.

 

So, enough of that rambling, let’s get back to writing (and for you, reading)!

 

 

The Spring semester of 2014 was an interesting one. A very interesting one.

 

Okay, so maybe YOU don’t think that it’s interesting, but you’re all the way on the other side of the internet. I’m just going to keep dancing in the rain and faffing about to myself over here. Feel free to eavesdrop!

But I kid, I always want to create fuel and fodder for discussion here on this blog because for us creators and lovers of fiction, it’s the discussions and transference of ideas that can give work new and exciting meaning. At least, that’s what the voices in my head tell me is right. They also tell me that if I ever stop listening to them they’re going to flood my head with “Let it Go” on repeat until my brain melts. So, I have to listen to them (send help).

So anyway, last semester I was in a 300-level English class in which we were tasked with creating an entirely original literary journal in about 3 months with a class size of seven. We were supposed to gather the submissions, design the journal, advertise it, publish it, get it printed, and really everything else under the sun.

Needless to say, it worked perfectly.

HA. I bet you thought I was going to say that it failed miserably! Well, I didn’t. So there. Some parts of it actually did fail quite spectacularly, but they were small compared to the final product, which was actually rather impressive, I think. Then again, I was the head Fiction editor and one of the main formatters of the whole thing, so damn right it was impressive.

Nepotism? What’s that?

But first, some more background information about the journal itself. The journal’s name was E.T.A. which stood for “Estimated Time of Arrival.” It accepted all forms of fiction (even musical submissions were considered, although ultimately none were accepted, unfortunately) but it had the theme of “travel and transformation.” The idea is a bit vague, we all realized (I just suggested it as a joke idea, but hey, if it works, it works!) but that allowed us to get a lot of interesting submissions ranging from people taking huge journeys to simply losing their innocence.

Well, that should suffice as background, in case anybody was interested.

 

 

No one? Really? Okie dokie. Well, I’ll just drop this here link in case anybody is curious at looking back on the Facebook page. It’s a bit moot now that the class and journal is done with, but you don’t gotta click it if ya don’t want to!

 

Anyway, back on track (my, what an odd feeling)-

So, as I was working with my other fiction editor, we got to thinking a lot about what good fiction was really like. Because we were in charge of sifting through all of the submissions and narrowing them down to about 6-7, we needed to be discerning, but fair. With that in mind, we naturally approached the question of “what is good fiction?” Well, after first deciding that “good” anything is really up to the beholder. If they find Rembrandt beautiful or a child’s finger-painting “good,” then so be it. But we were trying to be objective and impartial, so that wasn’t a good enough answer for us. We eventually came to the consensus (by “eventually,” I mean almost instantly. We worked very well together as editors) that fiction wasn’t so much something you could see or read or touch, it was a feeling.

My co-editor Luke and I came to the agreement that fiction can be thought of as being “good” if it simply feels right. That sounds like an incredibly vague and wishy-washy thing to say, but eventually we realized that good/interesting (we just started putting those two words together eventually) fiction is really a lot like anything in life that is interesting. It must engage you on multiple levels- not just the emotional or mental but the sensory as well. There needs to be a sense of question/resolution, even if it is just a mundane one. It could range from “will the heroes stop the demon king from destroying the world?” to “I wonder who just rang this person’s doorbell?” We’re not all great heroes of legend of even “main characters” of the world around us, so interesting fiction doesn’t have to put the whole world at stake- that important sense of tension that we decided that all fiction would need can come from literary anywhere or anything, as long as it’s built up correctly.

For instance, sure a child-custody battle is a big deal, but if the author fails to make us believe that the characters care for the child or the child cares about his/her parents, then we as readers probably won’t care. Meanwhile, an angry neighbor is out to steal the main character’s prized elephant topiary. If the topiary is built up as being just the greatest thing since sliced bread got sliced a second time, then it will be of earth-shattering importance.

Those elements I just mentioned were things that Luke and I could agree that we could notice in a story, but we wouldn’t be able to necessarily get in close to a text and point the defining sentences or paragraphs out like they were parts of a map. We knew we were engrossed in a story’s tension if we wanted to keep reading, if we could connect with the characters, we wanted to see more of them, and if the questions the pieces of fiction raised were strong enough, we’d want to read until all questions were answered.

This point might have been hinted at somewhere in that whole mess, but we eventually did come to another consensus that really, anything in fiction can work well and we seriously meant anything. The mantra of “if it works, it works” eventually began to define just how closely we looked at the fiction we were reading. In much the same way that a demon king can be treated with the same level of tension as a stranger ringing the doorbell, anything written, if written well, can be, well, good.

But that’s a blog entry for another day. Like tomorrow. It’ll probably be tomorrow’s entry.

But until that point, I’d love to hear what other people think about this little revelation that Luke and I had. Our definition for what good fiction was went over very well with the rest of our classmates, but in the world of creative endeavors, no one person’s opinion is truly greater than another’s. So, how do you define good fiction? What makes a piece of fiction good to you and how would you describe it to other people?

Oh and expect this manhandling and retelling of my time with E.T.A. to become a regular thing, at least until I run out of things to talk about with it. It was quite the experience and it lead to a lot of interesting questions to ask. Like the one above. Unless you don’t think that’s interesting. BUT HEY, THAT’S TOTALLY FINE IF YOU DON’T.

 

Seriously. Now, this post as gone on for forever and a day, so here’s where I’m ending it.

-END TRANSMISSION. GOOD MORNING, GOOD AFTERNOON, GOOD NIGHT-

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