- I do not blame the words, for they are, as it were, choice and precious vessels, but I do deplore the wine of error which was poured out to us by teachers already drunk. And, unless we also drank we were beaten, without liberty of appeal to a sober judge.
- Augustine, Confessions, Book 1, Chapter 16.
- We live in a world ruled by fictions of every kind - mass merchandising, advertising, politics conducted as a branch of advertising, the instant translation of science and technology into popular imagery, the increasing blurring and intermingling of identities within the realm of consumer goods, the preempting of any free or original imaginative response to experience by the television screen. We live inside an enormous novel. For the writer in particular it is less and less necessary for him to invent the fictional content of his novel. The fiction is already there. The writer's task is to invent the reality.
- J. G. Ballard, "Introduction" to the French edition (1974) of Crash (1973), reprinted in Re/Search no. 8/9 (1984).
- Fiction is not imagination. It is what anticipates imagination by giving it the form of reality. This is quite opposite to our own natural tendency which is to anticipate reality by imagining it, or to flee from it by idealizing it. That is why we [Europeans] shall never inhabit true fiction; we are condemned to the imaginary and nostalgia for the future. The American way of life is spontaneously fictional, since it is a transcending of the imaginary in reality.
- Every novel is an ideal plane inserted into the realm of reality.
- Jorge Luis Borges, "Partial Magic in the Quixote", Labyrinths (1964).
- Reality is not always probable, or likely. But if you're writing a story, you have to make it as plausible as you can, because if not, the reader's imagination will reject it.
- The truth of art keeps science from becoming inhuman, and the truth of science keeps art from becoming ridiculous.
- Raymond Chandler, The Notebooks of Raymond Chandler.
- As regards plots I find real life no help at all. Real life seems to have no plots.
- Ivy Compton-Burnett, "A Conversation Between I. Compton-Burnett and M. Jourdain", in R. Lehmann et al. (eds.) Orion (London: Nicholson & Watson, 1945) vol. 1, p. 2.
- Life is infinitely stranger than anything which the mind of man could invent. We would not dare to conceive the things which are really mere commonplaces of existence. If we could fly out of that window hand in hand, hover over this great city, gently remove the roofs, and peep in at the queer things which are going on, the strange coincidences, the plannings, the cross-purposes, the wonderful chains of events, working through generations, and leading to the most outre results, it would make all fiction with its conventionalities and foreseen conclusions most stale and unprofitable.
- My fiction is not autobiography. I am not an exhibitionist. I do not show myself. I am not asking for forgiveness. I do not want to confess. But I have used everything I know—my life—to show what I believe must be shown so that it can be faced. The imperative at the heart of my writing—what must be done—comes directly from my life. But I do not show my life directly, in full view; nor even look at it while others watch.
- Andrea Dworkin, Life and Death, p. 15
- A plot is about things that happen. A story is about people who behave. To admire a story you must be willing to listen to the people and observe them.
- To read fiction means to play a game by which we give sense to the immensity of things that happened, are happening, or will happen in the actual world. By reading narrative, we escape the anxiety that attacks us when we try to say something true about the world. This is the consoling function of narrative — the reason people tell stories, and have told stories from the beginning of time.
- Umberto Eco, Six Walks in the Fictional Woods (1994) Chapter Four: "Possible Woods".
- The central function of imaginative literature is to make you realize that other people act on moral convictions different from your own.
- William Empson, Milton's God (1961; repr. London: Chatto & Windus, 1965) p. 261.
- Wars produce many stories of fiction, some of which are told until they are believed to be true.
- A story with a moral appended is like the bill of a mosquito. It bores you, and then injects a stinging drop to irritate your conscience.
- O. Henry, "The Gold that Glittered" in Strictly Business (1910).
- A man once said: Why such reluctance? If you only followed the parables you yourselves would become parables and with that rid of all your daily cares.
Another said: I bet that is also a parable.
The first said: You have won.
The second said: But unfortunately only in parable.
The first said: No, in reality: in parable you have lost.
- Fiction is Truth's elder sister. Obviously. No one in the world knew what truth was till some one had told a story.
- True myth may serve for thousands of years as an inexhaustible source of intellectual speculation, religious joy, ethical inquiry, and artistic renewal. The real mystery is not destroyed by reason. The fake one is. You look at it and it vanishes. You look at the Blond Hero — really look — and he turns into a gerbil. But you look at Apollo, and he looks back at you. The poet Rilke looked at a statue of Apollo about fifty years ago, and Apollo spoke to him. "You must change your life," he said. When true myth rises into consciousness, that is always its message. You must change your life.
- Ursula K. Le Guin, "Myth and Archetype in Science Fiction", Parabola I (4), Fall 1976.
- The artist deals in what cannot be said in words. The artist whose medium is fiction does this in words. The novelist says in words what cannot be said in words.
- Good books tell the truth, even when they're about things that never have been and never will be. They're truthful in a different way.
- Stanisław Lem, "Pirx's Tale" in More Tales of Pirx The Pilot (1983).
- For if the proper study of mankind is man, it is evidently more sensible to occupy yourself with the coherent, substantial and significant creatures of fiction than with the irrational and shadowy figures of real life.
- Why should murder be so over-represented in our popular fiction, and crimes of a sexual nature so under-represented? Surely it cannot be because rape is worse than murder, and is thus deserving of a special unmentionable status. Surely, the last people to suggest that rape was worse than murder were the sensitively reared classes of the Victorian era … And yet, while it is perfectly acceptable (not to say almost mandatory) to depict violent and lethal incidents in lurid and gloating high-definition detail, this is somehow regarded as healthy and perfectly normal, and it is the considered depiction of sexual crimes that will inevitably attract uproars of the current variety.
- Nunc fabularum cur sit inventum genus,
Brevi decebo. Servitus obnoxia,
Quia, quae volebat, non audebat dicere,
Affectus proprios in fabellas transtulit.
Aesopi illius semita feci viam.
- Attend me briefly while I now disclose
How art of fable telling first arose.
Unhappy slaves, in servitude confined,
Dared not to harsh masters show their mind,
But under veiling of fable’s dress
Contrived their thoughts and feelings to express,
Escaping still their lords’ affronted wrath.
So Aesop did; I widen out his path.
- Attend me briefly while I now disclose
- Fiction has to be plausible. All history has to do is happen.
- Truth is stranger than fiction, but it is because Fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities; Truth isn't.
- Fiction is like a spider's web, attached ever so lightly perhaps, but still attached to life at all four corners. Often the attachment is scarcely perceptible.
- Novels so often provide an anodyne and not an antidote, glide one into torpid slumbers instead of rousing one with a burning brand.