Water’s story got me thinking about why we write fiction.
The fiction of the type portrayed in Hairspray is aspirational. It allows us to imagine a better future when we are stuck in seemingly hopeless situations. Sometimes in this “vale of tears” the only thing that keeps us going is our dreams.
At other times fiction is used to communicate teachings or experiences intended to inspire. My book The Sun Zebra is this type of fiction. It is not real in the sense that the right things always happen at the right time, in the right way, and for the right reasons. We know reality seldom works like this, but we use approaches like these to get the point across to the reader.
Fiction also allows us to stir “stir things up.” It allows us to introduce chaos into our otherwise orderly world and then explore how people react to it and analyze the consequences. In my next book of short stories, entitled Spirit Women, half of the stories involve the supernatural. Do I believe in the supernatural? No, but I use it as a tool to support the themes of the stories.
Finally, fiction is used for entertainment. I believe this is because many people are all too well acquainted with the tedium of their predictable everyday lives and they want to experience something different. Reality is often boring and life would be so much more interesting if we could fly through the air, open portals to different dimensions, conjure spirits, or battle monsters. Being unable to experience these things in the real world we seek to experience them in the imaginary realms of books, movies, or games.
Regardless of the reason we write it, what fiction with no doubt has is the power to endure. When time has gone by and reality has been forgotten, it is the fiction that is remembered. Nowadays hardly anyone remembers the Buddy Deane Show and the unsuccessful attempt at desegregating it. But for the past 25 years a courageous group of white and black teenagers has battled the forces of obscurantism and triumphed thousands of times successfully desegregating the Corny Collins Show at each performance of Hairspray. You may ask: why is this? The answer is:
Cause you can’t stop
The motion of the ocean
Or the rain from above
You can try to stop the paradise
We're dreaming of
But you cannot stop the rhythm
Of two hearts in love to stay
Cause you can’t stop the beat!