Making Fiction in a Puddle of Light

The world is abuzz with it. Here’s what cracks me up: the firestorm is ill-placed. Albus Dumbledore may be gay, but he’s also fictional. That is, J.K. Rowling made him up.

That’s one of the beautiful things about fiction; one of the ways fiction is far superior to other mediums: it is created in such a way that the reader is invited -- nay, compelled -- to bring as much of himself as possible along for the ride. Unless an author tells me that the shirt is red, when I read, I’ll make it any old color I want.

In The Next Ex, the second Madeline Carter novel, I envisioned one of the main characters, Keesia Livingston, as a woman of color. I only ever described that color obliquely because it didn’t have any bearing on who she was in the book. It had relevance to me because it helped me understand the character as I wrote: I knew where she’d come from and the elements that had shaped her. And my knowing helped readers feel she was more real, even if they didn’t see her in the same way I did.

As an author, my goal isn’t to make readers see exactly what I see. What I want is to bring them to a place where the pictures they see are real to them. And I believe that the more of themselves they bring to the story, the more vivid the pictures will seem.

That to me is the most difficult part of making fiction. Anyone can describe a lamp. It’s trickier to evoke a lamp that will resonate with the reader; that will make him feel the warmth of the light and will make him feel the lamp in a lasting and meaningful way. And how we make that lamp -- or ball or shirt or child or feeling -- how we make those things real all work together to create the impression -- the feeling, if you will -- that will become our fiction.

But wait: I started off with Dumbledore, didn’t I? I did a piece for January on it yesterday. If you want to see it, it’s here.


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