Fiction: A Window Or A Mirror?

Today’s post by our very own Marybeth Whalen | @MarybethWhalen

Marybeth Whalen

Marybeth Whalen

If you read fiction (and please don’t tell me if you don’t because… I’m not sure we can be friends) why do you read it? What do you want out of the story when you open that new book?

I was thinking about this the other day as I ran. (And please understand when I say “the other day” that is a generalization because it has lo been many days since I have run, thanks to all the rain. I hear confession is good for the soul. Hopefully by the time you read this I will have been to that new gym.)

Back to “the other day” when I was running. And thinking. I was thinking about some of the comments I’ve gotten on my new novel THE WISHING TREE. And how some people love my “lighter” books, books that are more romantic and dreamy. And some really like the ones where I dig in and really examine issues.

And I thought about how some people want a window when they read– a way of looking at the world beyond. And some want a mirror– they want to see themselves and the people they love, maybe in a new way or in a way that helps them think differently. There really does seem to be a dividing line among readers as far as what they look for in stories. The window people would tell you they just wanted to be entertained and transported. The mirror people would tell you they want to learn something about the human experience; they want to be challenged

And as I ran (if memory serves), I thought about how the best writing is the kind that is both window and mirror. The kind that shows you a world beyond but also makes you look inside yourself. Maybe that’s what all writers should be aiming for. Maybe it’s the ones who manage it who become the bestsellers, meeting both types of readers right where they are, enticing them with one, but surprising them with the other. And showing them the value in both.

About Marybeth Whalen

Marybeth Whalen is the co-founder of She Reads, mother of six, and life-long reader. She is also the author of two novels with a third out in July: The Mailbox, She Makes It Look Easy, and The Guest Book.

7 Responses to Fiction: A Window Or A Mirror?

  1. Gwyn March 26, 2014 at 10:17 am #

    I enjoy all kinds of fiction, but I am drawn mostly to historical fiction.

  2. Amy Sue Nathan March 26, 2014 at 10:17 am #

    So insightful, Marybeth! Thank you for sharing that mirror and window into reading and writing.

  3. Melissa Crytzer Fry March 26, 2014 at 10:17 am #

    What an insightful post; I agree — I want my fiction to be of the window and mirror variety. I DO want to be challenged and learn about the human experience. And beyond that, I’ve found that I need not only the ‘story’ but also the ‘language.’ I really seem to savor my fiction on a sentence-by-sentence basis these days.

  4. Katherine Jones March 26, 2014 at 10:17 pm #

    Well said! Especially like this part: “the best writing is the kind that is both window and mirror.”

  5. Kathleen Basi March 29, 2014 at 10:17 pm #

    This is so true. I’ve always thought of myself as a “mirror” writer, but you inspire me to reach beyond that.

  6. techeditor April 7, 2014 at 10:17 pm #

    good fiction does both.


  1. Fiction: A Window or a Mirror? - August 7, 2014

    […] (With special thanks to Marybeth Whalen for her permission to repost this piece, which first appeared on She Reads.) […]

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