Navigation

Follow Authorlink:

All about publishing a book, getting help to convert a PDF to eBook, and keeping up with publishing industry news

Create an Alternative World – 2014

Pub Date: Jan 31, 2014

Rochelle Jewel Shapiro

CREATE AN ALTERNATIVE WORLD

by Rochelle Jewel Shapiro 

February 2014

Watch for her insights every month on Authorlink

“Stephen Dobyns encourages writers to create alternative world for their readers.”
—Shapiro

In his helpful book about writing, Best Words, Best Order (Mac Millaan, 2003) teacher, poet, novelist, Stephen Dobyns encourages writers to create alternative world for their readers. The world may be science fiction as in Brave New World by Aldous Huxley or Dune by Frank Herbert. Fantasy and magic realism also gives us an alternative world. And the more real you make that world, the more believable your characters and situation become. Or your alternative world can resemble this world that is familiar to us as in Caroline Leavitt’s Is This Tomorrow (Algonquin, 2013) and Lisa Gornick’s Tinderbox (Sarah Crichton Books, 2013.) This is part of what a novel or short story does, why we read it.

One of the subjects of a novel is the society in which it was written, Dobyns writes. Think of The Great Gatsby as not only a book about the tragic love story between Jay Gatsby and Daisy Buchannan, but also a tale of the Roaring Twenties. Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath is not only a saga of the Joad family, but also of the Great Depression. Jack Kerouac’s On the Road isn’t just the picaresque novel of Sal Paradise and Dean Moriarity’s car trip across the country, but the story of the 1950’s Beat Generation.

“. . . any novel posits an ideal society, then sets its own society which it places alongside the ideal.”
—Shapiro

Dobyns writes that Frank O’Connor, the Irish short story writer, wrote that any novel posits an ideal society, then sets its own society which it places alongside the ideal. The novel’s commentary on that society is the difference between the ideal society and the one in the novel. Kafka’s The Trial, in which a chief financial officer of a bank, Joseph K., is arrested and prosecuted by a remote, inaccessible authority, where the nature of the crime is never revealed either to Joseph or the reader. In The Castle, Kafka uses a similar theme. The hero, known only as K., struggles to get into a castle to gain access to the unknown authorities who rule the village for unknown reasons. But actually, all novels or short stories are developed the same way. John Grisham’s, The Firm, in which a fledgling lawyer, Mitch McDeere, finds himself in a high-paying job at a firm that is actually run by Chicago crime bosses.

So the difference between what should be in a society and what actually is, is the crux of both great and low fiction.

“. . . step out of your own world into another and do all you can to bring the reader with you.”
—Shapiro

When you write a novel, you step out of your own world into another and do all you can to bring the reader with you.

About
Rochelle Jewel Shapiro

 

 

 


Rochelle Jewel Shapiro is author of Miriam the Medium (Simon & Schuster) and the Indie Award Winning finalist, Kaylee’s Ghost (Amazon and Nook). I Dare You To Write: First Aids, Warm Conforts, Sparking Advice for the Journey Ahead (Authorlink) is a collection of essays for anyone who dreams of writing. She has published essays in NYT (Lives), Newsweek (My Turn), and has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize in poetry. She teaches Writing the Personal Essay at UCLA extension.