I returned today from The World Mystery Convention, commonly referred to as Bouchercon. Bouchercon was named in honor of Anthony Boucher, a writer, reviewer and editor. The conference brings together the creators and devotees of mystery and crime fiction. I was exhilarated to be among so many who love a good murder.
On the plane ride home, I chatted with a pleasant young man, a recent college graduate who works in sports management. He suggested I write a nonfictional biographic novel about an Idaho sports figure we were discussing.
I didnt correct him, but a novel is a work of fiction. A biography is nonfiction. Theres no such thing as a nonfiction novel. Theres not supposed to be such a thing as a fictional biography, although some authors push the limits.
The term creative nonfiction was coined to describe nonfiction that uses the literary craft to present factually accurate prose about real people and events in a compelling, vivid manner. (This is from the Creative Nonfiction journal). This prose includes essays, biographies and memoirs. Boiling that down, fiction writers get paid to lie, and nonfiction writers are supposed to tell the truth. Both aim to draw the reader in with absorbing language and fascinating narrative.
It irks me when people assert with a deal of pride that they never read fiction. They tell me theyre far too busy, and if they have any spare time for reading, it is allocated to nonfiction in their profession. People who read only professional journals and books are limiting their horizons. The world awaits the reader of fiction. In mystery fiction alone, we can learn about virology, bacteriology, archaeology, other cultures, exotic careers and the fascinating aspects of jobs considered mundane by many. I learned about the life of a sports agent in a series of humorous mystery novels. Most writers of fiction invest a huge amount of time in research, striving to make the factual elements of their novels correct.
Humorous fiction that makes us laugh out loud can extend our lives. (Really. I read that in an essay written by a physician.)
I read a book on the long trek home that provided tips on gardening and cooking while it caught me up in a delicious mystery. Trying to solve a puzzling murder along with an amateur sleuth or a crafty private eye can be as sharpening to the mind as solving a crossword puzzle.
Mystery writers Sara Paretsky, Sue Grafton and Marcia Muller broke the barriers for women private eyes and at the same time helped young women understand that there are few barriers for a determined woman.
Reading fiction expands our vocabularies outside our chosen profession, and may even help us become more interesting writers in our own fields. A mind relaxed from exploring a new world in fiction can often be more creative in solving the problems of daily life and work.
Speaking of sports (and I did, above), baseball enthusiast David Proctor gently chided me for my error (they make those in baseball, too, dont they?) in my Oct. 3 article. David said, Hitters dont bat 1,000. They bat 1.000. Though more realistically, its closer to .300. Batting averages are percentages. A three hundred hitter is one who gets, on average, three hits for every 10 at bats. The expression batting a thousand can be confusing, but thats what it means a hit every time at bat.
Oops. I should have read more novels about baseball. If youre a fan, you might want to Google (yes, it is officially a verb) novels about baseball or mystery novels about baseball. Or ask a librarian while youre there checking out the fiction thats about to expand your mind and your world.