July 17, 2014

Engaging A New Genre by Bryan Norford

I generally focus on non-fiction, and, if I’m honest, I’ve always been sceptical of fiction as “telling stories” rather than “telling the truth.” You can interpret that anyway you wish! That, despite the fact that Jesus was perhaps the greatest recorded “story-teller” of history.

Jesus’ genius was finding spiritual application from the everyday things that surrounded him: sheep, seeding, and so on, and the endless variety of human foibles. In contrast, an inadequate imagination has always been my handicap.

But back to my non-fiction fixation. I wanted to write a book detailing the reasons I’m a Christian. I’d have no difficulty in filling many chapters. And if I did, I’d eventually have one book in ten thousand that no-one wanted to read, and perhaps exalted me well above my rank.

But slowly the ideas of fiction began to gel in my mind, partly as Ann and I started writing our war stories. It was necessary to include some fiction categories to complete the stories and make them readable. Something towards, but, I hoped, short of full dramatization

The idea of combining the virtues of the faith with a novel began to take root and make sense; something centuries of fiction writers already knew. First, I wrote a short story—about 6000 words, perhaps not so short—in response to a competition, for which I received a polite “thankyou.” Damned by faint praise!

Then I wrote a novel—about 70,000 words—incorporating my ideas. It was an enjoyable experience; with the characters and the plot often taking on a life of their own. A good writer friend read it and suggested it “wasn’t a page turner,” and I should “reduce it by a third”!

However, I was already beginning to see major problems with it, and a few fiction workshops confirmed my concerns and added a few more. I was finding out, by the writing itself, and what I learned since, fiction has a lot more constraints surrounding it that at first thought.

Surprising, for surely, here is a genre where even the sky isn’t the limit; it gives freedom to go beyond imagination, and liberty (license?) to say whatever I want. Yet even fiction must follow guidelines if its intended audience will pick it up and read. And those guidelines change constantly, decade by decade.

However, the idea of a novel lives on in my bucket list, but next time with far more wisdom and appreciation of the art. And with the numerous recognized fiction writers as mentors in InScribe and The Word Guild, it could become a meaningful creation.


  1. I hope this dream comes to fruition!

  2. I agree with Tracy--that you should make another attempt and cross it off your bucket list. You never know what might happen.

  3. I enjoyed your post's honesty, in trying something new and in the process to also appreciate the other writing styles.
    I appreciate great fiction, and feel intimidated with it.

  4. I think it improves our writing to venture to someplace different once in a while, whether there is publishing success or not. So good for you, Bryan, for going into uncharted waters!


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