The Poor Fictionist

Trollope invented the pillar box when he was not busy fictioning

This, from Trollope (Phineas Finn, to be exact)

The poor fictionist very frequently finds himself to have been wrong in his description of things in general, and is told so, roughly by the critics, and tenderly by the friends of his bosom. He is moved to tell of things of which he omits to learn the nature before he tells of them — as should be done by a strictly honest fictionist. He catches salmon in October; or shoots his partridges in March. His dahlias bloom in June, and his birds sing in the autumn. He opens the opera-houses before Easter, and makes Parliament sit on a Wednesday evening. And then those terrible meshes of the Law!

There’s no hope for me.  I’ll never be a “perfectly honest fictionist.”  But what a relief to discover that Trollope wasn’t either. 


5 thoughts on “The Poor Fictionist

  1. It’s funny, isn’t it, that we have to get facts straight in order to make fiction more convincing? The wardrobe has to be described accurately before any reader will walk through it…

  2. Elizabeth Bishop was keenly concerned that her poems be “accurate” — I suppose that if you get something wrong, the one person in the universe who knows that you got your facts wrong will be distracted endlessly by that. Or, will feel endlessly superior to you!

  3. I’ve told this before but Jane Bowles had to know everything about a bridge and how it functioned to write about it. Paul Bowles records that he was happy to say “there was a bridge.”

    I’m having to completely rewrite a chapter set on a canal boat where I’ve assumed that the cabin is about four or five metres long as opposed to about two.

  4. I think it is fine to try to get all the facts right, like getting nouns and verbs shaking hands. But some people waste a lot of everyone’s time, including their own, by pointing out every mistake they can find. I try to calm myself down when I see or hear a stupid mistake by imagining that I am the college-educated sportscaster who keeps saying “I had went to school with both Sam and he.” (USC grad of course, not Stanford. OK, I’m still struggling with this lofty ideal.) How do you get over judging (not an occupational question)?

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