Write a story related to an inexplicable event in your life

Write a story related to an inexplicable event in your life

A Lesson by Tantra Bensko

This genre is widely varied, and includes the range from strict realism to completely fantastical. Here, we'll consider one aspect in a basic way with a simple exercise that could turn into one of your favorite stories to submit to a magazine or anthology. Writing this kind of fiction allows you to explore events you might have experienced in your own life that you couldn't explain, or are leery of telling people about because they might not share your belief that it could have happened. Just respect the creators of this label, beginning with an anthology in 2002 Edited by Bradford Morrow, Guest Edited by Peter Straub, and don't call your work New Wave Fabulism yet, until you really know all the ins and outs of what that term means.


New Wave Fabulism is complex and multi-faceted with a wide range of types within it, and this one free short lesson  isn't nearly enough for you to have anything like a full understanding of it. But it can turn you in the direction of this style as you contemplate a new way of writing, or look into whether you may have been writing this way already. This doesn't qualify as an introduction to it, but it is mostly an exercise to get you in the mood.

It's impossible to sum all of it up with this one aspect that is in some of the stories labeled New Wave Fabulism, but -- it's a great genre for this era in which more people all the time are questioning the tenants of religion, mysticism, the paranormal, ghost stories, magick, strange beasts, psychic abilities, mediumship, energy healing, prophetic dreams, aliens, miracles, etc. as conventional science is showing that much of what people used to believe is pseudo-science, is disproven, is the effect of hoaxters and fraudulent activity.

However, even many of the most rational scientific skeptics have experienced things they can't explain. Maybe you have experienced a coincidence that had a million to one chances of happening. For example, maybe you don't believe in ghosts, but have seen something that could be labeled one. Maybe you've met an oracle who told you something true that she couldn't have known, even though she seemed hokey.

Think about what that felt like, how strange it was, how it made you wonder, maybe feel alone because you couldn't talk about it to many people, how it felt heightened, dreamlike, important, and bothersome or like a great gift. Write a story triggered by that event, but don't make it simply an anecdote or vignette. Step back from it so you aren't too close, making sure it's got fictional elements with a strong structure that gives the reader a delicious experience. Don't just tell what actually happened to you, but use that to suggest the plot. You don't have to explain how it happened. You can leave the reader on edge.

Don't turn it into true Fantasy. You can honor the fact that it's supposed to happen in the real world, rather than a secondary world. Exaggerate it a bit so it's more intense, wondrous, imparting a sense of awe. If you want, you can exaggerate it to such an extreme that it only symbolizes that event with events the readers know couldn't possibly happen.

Create the sensation that this is OK to write about through the atmosphere and imagery, metaphors, dreams, and imagination, putting the reader in the mood to accept it even if he is a skeptic who doesn't believe such things are possible. Help him suspend disbelief, and not feel too distanced from the humanity of it.

Show the emotion of the characters who experience the odd thing, and help the reader also experience that same feeling, creating empathy through the narrator being close to the protagonist's inner thoughts, without too much exposition. Show rather than tell what occurs through the character's actions, gestures, expressions, and dialogue. Literary fiction goes into more depth of the characters than genre fiction does. This is on the edge of the two, so your story can go either direction. Which way should it go? 

Finding the right readers for this and targeting it to them is key. Taking my extensive online course, "Waving at the Fabulous," can help with that, and also with learning the specific history of it, which is absolutely vital if you want to use the label for your work. The course also analyzes stories, comparing and contrasting New Wave Fabulism to several similar genres, considering the tropes of literary fiction and of Fantasy and finding the best combination for your specific audience so you don't turn off all readers of literary by being too genre and all readers of genre by being too literary. This style doesn't have nearly as many rules as Magical Realism but is very tricky to write and have published by quality journals. Such fiction is some of the most exciting out there.

If you want it to be accessible to a large number of people, have one active protagonist who wants something badly and pursues it throughout the story, while an antagonist thwarts it during a series of encounters that escalate. Ideally, the antagonist should reflect the shadow self of the protagonist, in a way that resonates with something meaningful to the readers. While in Fantasy, you often find people or creatures who are good or evil, you won't find that in New Wave Fabulism. It's not about battles and elves and wizards. It can include unique types of odd events that fit in none of the categories of Fantasy, the things you've wanted to write about but didn't know were allowed.

This brief lesson is much more simplistic than what you'll find in the intensive course taught through Lit Demon called Waving at the Fabulous but if it intrigues you, please consider checking that class out. If you join before May 10th, 2014, you can participate in the three in-depth weekend webinars with other students, ask questions, and have two full length stories critiqued with great care line by line over a three week period. Afterwards, the class is accessible through that site to watch only.

I hope you've enjoyed this, and write a story that delights you.

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Tantra Bensko
Tantra Bensko

Berkeley, CA

I teach fiction writing through UCLA Ex. Writing Program, and my own academy online where I focus on Experimental Writing, which I also teach through Writers College when I have time. I have nearly 20..