“Fiction is a lie that tells us true things” is a quote from Neil Gaiman’s foreword to Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451.
I always read the front matter before I embark on any book. Much careful thought goes into forewords and acknowledgements in my humble opinion. And when a statement like Gaiman’s jumps out of the e-page at you at 3 am, you, if you are anything like me, sit up and take notice.
And yes, write it down on that little notebook by the bed.
But, why oh why was I reading Fahrenheit 451 at 3 am? Because I’d taken up the Literary Taxidermy challenge earlier this year: to take the opening and closing lines of said novel - and stuff my own words in between.
Oh what joy this challenge was, to find new characters to blossom, to explore settings, to discover emotions. And find a course for these components from opening to closing lines. Not wondering how you would get there, or how you would move everything from A to Z with the limited word count. And to feel just a tad uncomfortable.
I re-read my submission this week (after that Gaiman light bulb moment) and, in spite of those constraints of the challenge, I found I had, subconsciously, immersed so many truths in my fiction.
It was a moment of realisation. Of understanding why I write fiction. Why I feel I must tell these stories. And why I must trust my instincts to tell things in my own way. I suspect I do this a lot.
I am appreciative of the gauntlet thrown down by the Literary Taxidermy challenge and admit I wouldn’t have a. written the story at all, or b. read Bradbury (and thereby missed the foreword) without that challenging lure.
But most of all I’m thankful for this shift in my deeper understanding of fiction.