Stephanie Soileau on Fiction and Moral Ambiguity


The prestigious literary journal Glimmer Train regularly publishes short essays about the writing process by their fiction contest winners. I appreciated these thoughts from Stephanie Soileau, winner of the December 2009 Fiction Open. Referring to Bruno Bettelheim’s theory that fairy tales give children a safe space to process the darkness and complexity of life, she suggests that all fiction writing can serve a similar function:

I believe in storytelling as a way to map and explore the ambiguities of human experience, and it is this belief that motivates me as a fiction writer. Stories have given me a language to express the contradictions in my own experience, and because writing them has been an often challenging exercise in sympathy and compassion, I have come to see the practice of storytelling as a moral imperative. But the morality is in the practice, not in the story itself. Fiction is no place for sermons, for conclusive answers. Whether we’re reading or writing them, the best fiction gives us a woods to get lost in, and if at the end, we have come to no conclusions, if we are only left with more questions, the questions themselves are something like a map, and we emerge from this woods a little better able to find our way.

The March Fiction Open is accepting entries now through the end of the month, with a top prize of $2,000.
Read more thoughts by winning authors in the Glimmer Train Bulletin.

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