By Channing Whitaker
Suffice it to say, when you pick up non-fiction books — accounts of people and events, biographies, history books, maybe even self-improvement texts — you expect to come out of the read more informed, perhaps given a new way to see the world, and in either case intellectually or emotionally changed, at least a little. But when you pick up a work of fiction, do you expect the same, or do you merely expect to be entertained?
I’m a fiction writer, which means I dedicate a significant portion of my time to making things up, to making up stories. Now, if a person is making up an alibi for a crime they’ve committed, they likely wouldn’t strive for entertainment. Rather, they’d want a mundane story, which is too boring not to believe. However, when you’re making up a story you intend for people to read and then hopefully tell other people to read it as well, as all us fiction writers hope, that story most certainly needs to entertain. Who would spend the time on a work of fiction if it didn’t? But is it worth your time if it doesn’t offer more?
What some fiction offers up is obvious, like challenging racism and segregation norms in To Kill a Mocking Bird, others are less straightforward, like reinforcing the morality of doing what is right in spite of the personal consequences in the Harry Potter series. I can’t think of a work, good or bad, which would be an example of fiction with pure entertainment and no underlying lesson. I imagine even the writers of the trashiest of romance novels still hold a hope that their readers will take away ideas from their books and use them to ignite passion in their own love-lives.
My novel, Until the Sun Rises – One Night in Drake Mansion, seems like a haunted house mystery, but is largely told from the perspective of a paranormal skeptic. It weaves an entertaining plot, but also casts a suspicious light on paranormal themed reality shows as well as commune-with-the-dead psychics. It doesn’t impart many definitive facts as it’s not a true story. However, it does question the likelihood of catching a ghostly happening on a reality show when both a camera and a microphone have to conveniently be rolling on the alleged occurrence. “Is it more likely to have been staged?” My hope is that metaphorically walking in the shoes of the paranormal skeptic leads readers to be sharper critics in their own lives, be it of paranormal claims or otherwise.
Whether fiction informs you of an environment you’ve never experienced, causes you to question principals you’ve taken for granted, helps you see the world through another person’s eyes, makes you imagine how you might respond to a fantastic situation, or takes you through a tragedy, you’ll hopefully never have to experience in real life. Fiction can shape you, and good fiction absolutely should.
Channing Whitaker is a novelist, screenwriter, and filmmaker originally hailing from Centerville, Iowa. An alum of Indian Hills Community College, Channing went on to study cinema, screenwriting, literature, and mathematics at the University of Iowa.
Post graduation, Channing began his career in the production of television news, independent films, and commercial videos, as well as to write for websites, corporate media, and advertising. His 10-year career in writing has taken Channing from Iowa, to Alaska, Oklahoma, and currently to Texas.
Channing has written five feature-length screenplays, co-written another feature screenplay, and penned a novel. In that time, Channing has also written and directed over 50 short films.
The April 2015 publication of Channing’s debut novel, “Until the Sun Rises – One Night in Drake Mansion,” comes in tandem with the first production of one of Channing’s feature screenplays, “KILD TV” – a horror mystery. “KILD TV” has already filmed, and will premier in March 2016 release.
Website URL: http://www.channingwhitaker.com
Blog URL: http://www.aboveallstory.blogspot.com/
Facebook URL: http://www.facebook.com/AuthorChanningWhitaker/
Skype: Channing Whitaker (firstname.lastname@example.org)