News | 2016 | Something to Think About

The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson

I've been reading Brandon Sanderson's The Way of Kings lately (I've been quite enjoying it, too), and last night I came upon a couple of quotes I didn't want to forget so I figured I share them here. They appear on page 806 in my edition (I had to share that part, too, because, well, this book has over 1,000 pages and I wanted to pat myself on the back for reading them all so far). Anyway, the first quote goes like this:

The purpose of a storyteller is not to tell you how to think, but to give you questions to think upon.

And the second (which actually comes first in Sanderson's manuscript):

A story doesn't live until it is imagined in someone's mind.

While I thought the second quote was cool (and didn't want to forget it), it was the first one that really struck me. In the past, I used to get caught up in figuring out what it was I was trying to say with a given piece of fiction. Part of my revision process (after completing a first draft) is to distil my stories down to a single declarative sentence with which I line up everything in my manuscript. This statement of theme can be difficult for me to decide on at times, especially as my first drafts usually have six or seven possible themes woven throughout them. I realize this isn't what Sanderson is saying here, but for me the idea that you don't have to persuade/convince/make your readers agree with you--just give them something to think about--is quite freeing and gives me comfort. It also underscores another lesson I learned from Jon Volkmer's The Fiction Workshop Companion, where he speaks about authorial fallacies:

Fiction Workshop Companion by Jon Volkmer
The great thing about fiction is that it allows a person to deal with the most intimate matters of the heart, the most confessional subjects, the wildest thoughts, and yet remain outside of the matter. As a reader, the extent to which a fictive event is drawn from real life is not relevant, and none of your business. It is never appropriate to ask the writer, "Did that really happen?" or "Is that really you?" or "Do you really believe that?"

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