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Have you ever sat and wondered about where a certain word comes from? Who was the first person to look at or imagine something and give a name to it? What are the histories behind these contraptions we call words? The very things that we as writers use to bring our stories to life and share with the world around us. Well, every Sunday from here on out, I will bring you that meaning to one word at a time. Hope you enjoy😊
early 15c., ficcioun, “that which is invented or imagined in the mind,” from Old French ficcion “dissimulation, ruse; invention, fabrication” (13c.) and directly from Latin fictionem (nominative fictio) “a fashioning or feigning,” noun of action from past participle stem of fingere “to shape, form, devise, feign,” originally “to knead, form out of clay,” from PIE root *dheigh- “to form, build.”
Meaning “prose works (not dramatic) of the imagination” is from 1590s, at first often including plays and poems. Narrower sense of “the part of literature comprising novels and short stories based on imagined scenes or characters” is by early 19c. The legal sense (fiction of law) is from 1580s. A writer of fiction could be a fictionist (1827). The related Latin words included the literal notion “worked by hand,” as well as the figurative senses of “invented in the mind; artificial, not natural”: Latin fictilis “made of clay, earthen;” fictor “molder, sculptor” (also borrowed 17c. in English), but also of Ulysses as “master of deceit;” fictum “a deception, falsehood; fiction.”
The origin of fiction
By: Niels Ebdrup
Films, computer games and novels have only come into existence thanks to medieval writers who used their imagination to create novels. New research reveals the surprising historical process behind fiction.
In the old days, it was unimaginable that authors should write imaginative stories like Harry Potter. That all changed when medieval monks let their imagination run wild.
Today we are perfectly aware that crime fiction and other novels are based purely on imagination. We know full well that characters like Harry Potter aren’t real and that Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson never actually walked the streets of London.
However, had these books been published in the Middle Ages, their readers would have thought that the stories about Harry, Holmes and Watson were real – simply because there were books about them.
New research reveals how our ancestors came up with the idea to tell tall tales in books.
“In the Middle Ages, books were perceived as exclusive and authoritative. People automatically assumed that whatever was written in a book had to be true,” says Professor Lars Boje Mortensen of the Institute of History and Civilization at the University of Southern Denmark.
“Most people only knew the Bible, which was believed to tell the truth about the world. Because of this, it came as a big surprise when books full of fabrications first started to appear in the 12th century.”
The preliminary research that Mortensen and his colleagues have carried out has been published in the book Medieval Narratives between History and Fiction.
Monks regarded words of books as old truths
Historians and anthropologists assume that people have always told each other stories – including those that their listeners knew were pure fiction. But it was actually not until the High Middle Ages that writing fiction became common practice. (Photo: Colourbox)
Up until the High Middle Ages in the 12th century, books were surrounded by grave seriousness.
The average person only ever saw books in church, where the priest read from the Bible. Because of this, the written word was generally associated with truth.
The perception of books was no different among learned monks, who studied books about science and philosophy in the large monasteries of the Middle Ages.
The monks presumed that the descriptions of the paths of the planets and the human soul were ancient truths. Truths like the words of the Bible. The books read by the religious men had been passed on from generation to generation for centuries, and this meant that they acquired a special authority.
We have a tacit agreement with the writers
The practically religious relationship with books started to change gradually at the end of the 12th century – and has continued to change ever since.
In the library, fiction is kept separate from non-fiction. We generally expect a work of non-fiction about dwarves to tell us some facts about why some people are born smaller than others.
In the Middle Ages, books were perceived as exclusive and authoritative. People automatically assumed that whatever was written in a book had to be true.
Lars Boje Mortensen
If, on the other hand, we go to the fiction section and pick up a volume of the Lord of the Rings series, we’d get an entirely different take on the topic.
In Tolkien’s imaginary world, dwarves are a separate race. But we don’t mind. When we read fiction, we expect to be entertained by a good story, and because of that we accept that the novel we are reading deviates from accepted fact. This is due to a tacit agreement between the author and the reader – an invisible contract of sorts.
“We can only understand something as fiction if an ‘invisible contract’ has been formed between author and reader beforehand. A contract that says: ‘this is only make-believe’,” says Mortensen.
“The same rule applies when we go to the cinema to see a movie like Batman. There we as the audience have a ‘contract’ with the director stating that the superhero doesn’t exist in reality, but that we will pretend that he does during the movie.”
Hell was invented by curious men
The ‘invisible contract’ between writers of fiction and their readers first appeared in the Middle Ages. The new study shows that the contract materialised over the course of several centuries. It all started a few hundred years after the death of Jesus, when it became common practice to think up continuations to the events in the Bible and write them down as truth.
Christians in the Middle Ages and antiquity didn’t feel that the Bible provided them with all the answers they were looking for. The great book offers a lot of information about the life of Jesus, but there are also gaps in the descriptions, such as when the Son of God returns to Earth after his death and stays there for almost 40 days.
We can only understand something as fiction if an ‘invisible contract’ has been formed between author and reader beforehand. A contract that says: ‘this is only make-believe’.
Lars Boje Mortensen
“Some started to wonder: why doesn’t it say anything much about what Jesus actually said, when he returned to Earth? People started to think up answers to that. They filled in the gaps in the Bible by writing so-called apocryphal gospels as a supplement. In other words, they used their imagination to fill in the gaps,” says the researcher.
Our idea of hell is one of the concepts to have been introduced in that way. In the Bible it only says that the apostle Paul converted to Christianity after visiting a mysterious place. The place convinced him that Christianity was good.
“He had a vision in which he was removed from Earth, only later to return. But how did the other world look? That ‘gap’ in the Bible was filled with a description of ‘Hell’ – the place people imagined Paul had been to,” he says.
“Thus began the descriptions of Hell that we know today.”
Historians made up things too
The Bible wasn’t the only book to receive imaginative makeovers and extensions. In the centuries that followed, historical accounts were supplemented with a little imagination.
One such example is the medieval history of Denmark, Saxo Grammaticus, from around 1200. Saxo’s book was riddled with fictional tales, designed to create coherence between a number of legends that had been passed down through history.
Mortensen and his colleagues have reached their findings by reading religious, philosophical, scientific and historic books from antiquity and the Middle Ages.
While reading, they estimated whether the books established a fiction contract with their readers: did the book suggest a tacit agreement that it was all make-believe, or was the reader supposed to believe every single word?
This enabled the researchers to piece together when signs of a tacit agreement or ‘fiction contract’ first started to appear in Europe.
However, as the ‘fiction contract’ between readers and writers had not yet been established, people readily assumed that the descriptions they found in the books were true.
“It’s our impression that it was actually perceived as historical fact, because there was no clear-cut line between fiction and non-fiction at the time,” says Mortensen.
Alexander the Great in a submarine
As time passed, the number of supplementary stories increased. And they grew better and wilder – as so often happens with good stories.
“During the course of the Middle Ages, the supplementary stories were rewritten so many times that people eventually figured out that they were just tall tales and pretence. The most extreme examples are the historic accounts of the life of Alexander the Great,” he explains.
“Those books contain elements where Alexander the Great is flying in a kind of airplane. He sails in a submarine of sorts, and he meets a variety of mysterious beings. Those were popular books in the Middle Ages.”
In that way, people gradually got used to the fact that books could also be a form of entertainment – and that they were not necessarily telling the truth from cover to cover. Thus, the road was paved for the novels we know today.
King Arthur stories were the first novels
There are several examples of books from the Middle Ages and antiquity being partly or entirely fictional. Most of these were history books with fictional elements.
That is one of the most important findings published in the new book Medieval Narratives between History and Fiction. The first signs of the beginning of fiction already materialised during antiquity, but at the time no-one realised, as the ‘fiction contract’ had yet to be invented.
The first straightforward work of fiction was written in the 1170s by the Frenchman Chrétien de Troyes. The book, a story about King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table, became immensely popular.
Especially the genteel French aristocracy loved the imaginative tales, which were written in French. Readers were unaccustomed to this, as books were previously written either in Old Greek or Latin, which only clergymen were able to read.
However, several hundred years passed before the ‘fiction contract’ became a wholly integrated part of book culture in European countries. It wasn’t until the 19th century that it become common practice to divide literature into fiction and non-fiction.
And perhaps some of the medieval blind faith in the credibility of the book still lingers today.
Isn’t it often the case that a piece of information gains more authority if it’s written in a book than if it’s passed on by a friend?
Continuing my X-Files marathon this weekend. THE TRUTH IS OUT THERE.
They Are dead
While I live
Who is to choose
Who is to give
Such choices are taken
Without thought of malice
Those eyes gone black
Who will have us
Who can be this one
So knowing and cruel
Which is the learned
Who is the fool
This they all know
From within and out
To everyone who comes close
He will leave no doubt
Found these great tips this morning while browsing. Take these as you will, but they will be very helpful if you let them. I am sort of new to Flash Fiction and always looking for any advice I can find. So, I hope these help if you are getting in to the Flash Fiction game. Here also is a great video I found on YouTube.
10 Flash Fiction Writing Tips
Posted by Tim King
June 18, 2010
Every writer who writes flash has one of these lists, even if flash is not his area of expertise. Even if he doesn’t write it down, he keeps it in the back of his mind.
I tend to enjoy character-driven fiction, and I enjoy character-driven flash as well. You might think that flash offers too few words in which to develop good characters, but I believe that it is possible, if you focus your efforts.
Here’s my own list, which I keep in mind when I’m writing flash fiction and short-short stories:
1. You only have room for one main character, so choose her well. What’s more, in a flash piece, this character has only one compelling need. Because flash fiction is about focus, all of her qualities focus themselves on supporting her single compelling need.
2. You only have room for one scene, so choose it well. Actually, it’s more like a half a scene, or even a quarter scene. There’s not enough room to tell the character’s life story. One setting, one moment, one change. What is the most important change that occurs in the character’s story? That is her defining moment, and that is what the scene must focus on.
3. You only have room for a single plot. This single story thread you spin directly from the main conflict. No secondary conflicts. No subplots.
4. You only have room for a single, simple theme. I love stories that actually say something. And a novel can say two or three different things. It can explore interrelated themes with multiple interpretations. But not a flash story. You get to make one simple point on one theme, and everything else you need to leave for other stories.
5. Get to the main conflict of the scene in the first sentence. This is your hook. You don’t have time to lallygag around, so get right into it. In as few words as possible, why do I care? Start with a bang and then increase the intensity. Don’t worry about running out of things to talk about or tiring out the reader; you’re more likely to encounter the converse problems.
6. Skip as much of the backstory as you can. The reader usually doesn’t need to know how the character got to this point. And if he does absolutely need to know some part of the backstory, keep it as simple as possible, and imply as much of it as you can through its relation to the story. In a flash piece, you don’t need to explain everything to the reader. Let him figure it out himself through logical deduction.
7. “Show” anything related to the main conflict. That is, “show”; don’t “tell” it. This is where you use up the bulk of your words. Ping-pong the primary plot. (I.e., write it in MRU’s.) Focus the story’s intensity here, and don’t let up. The story is too short to require easy-going interludes. Except…
8. “Tell” the backstory; don’t “show” it. That is, any part of the backstory that you couldn’t get rid of, and you couldn’t leave to the imagination, because it actually builds the main conflict or explains a key plot point… If you have to go off on a tangent, at least gloss over it as quickly as possible.
9. Save the twist until the end. Or rather, as soon as you’ve laid enough groundwork for the story’s climax, do the deed and get out of there. Skip the epilogue; you don’t need one. (Or if you absolutely must write an epilogue, try: “And they lived happily ever after.” But that’s an extra 6 words you probably didn’t need.)
10. More Possibly Interesting Posts
Eliminate all but the essential words. Get out your editor’s pen, and cross out any word that isn’t absolutely needed. If that means shorter, choppier sentences, that’s just fine, because it increases the tempo.
Naturally, I go against all these rules all the time. Because they’re not really rules. They’re tips. They’re lines on your storytelling map, but they’re not destinations in themselves. And part of writing fiction is having fun plotting your own course across that map.
Death is not much
For those who betray
Though I no longer love you
I wish you to stay
My comfort is little
And you bring me more
After what you have done
This mind withers the floor
I am but one
And you are me
Together we dreadfully hold
On to what we see
An image of sparrows
Of flight and free
The aim is taken
A crumbling of three
Begging and broke
Unwrite what is wrote
Steered on this course
Capable of worse
You stand still by
Words collected with sighs
A lost souls rewind
Given what you will find
Must see in the way
Like fall leaves you sway
Open to what will
You have broken the seal
From now you go
Live all they know
You are silent looking down
Ignoring all sound