Perspectives on the Power of Prose

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It’s now the evening of November 1st in my time zone, toward the end of Day #1 of NaNoWriMo.

My clocks are set back and it will be somewhere around another 365 days before I have another 25 hour day.

Today I read chapter one of a book about writing fiction and fiction in general. Toward the end of the chapter the author listed reasons people write fiction. Several synergized into a motivation I have for writing fiction.

Writing fiction for me is something like witchcraft. It is also a craft where a practitioner can put words together in a certain order, including other appropriate ingredients (in the case of fiction things like punctuation and points of plot) and though the practitioner does not physically come in contact with the target, the target can be affected. Through fiction, a writer can have an influence on a reader without either being aware of the other.

I can describe it in another way. When a person writes fiction, the person casts something like a magic spell. Like a magical spell, a piece of fiction has a very tenuous connection to anything real. The power of fiction comes from the imagination, not from anything physical or even from solid facts. Even though fiction is conjured up only from the mind of the writer and shows up only as ink on a page, or pixels on a screen, it can affect people  across multiple continents, in multiple languages, across multiple centuries.

Because fiction can be a kind of magic, I find motivation to write.

This idea led me to a new realization about a short piece of nonfiction prose (maybe with a little poetry thrown in) which has had a great affect on possibly multiple civilizations, across continents and across a couple of thousand years. Interestingly scholars do not even agree about the author of this little piece of prose we often call a book, but as often call a letter or an epistle. It’s the Epistle to the Hebrews in the Christian New Testament of the Bible.

The Book of Hebrews, as it’s often called, is only around 7000 words in English, depending on the translation, of course. That’s only about the length of two or three chapters of an adult novel. Even though it isn’t a very long piece of prose, it has been read by millions and many of those millions have adopted it into their philosophy of life. This little letter, which doesn’t even include an approbation of authorship, probably has influenced the formation of governments. It’s not fiction, although some believe the claims it makes are mythological.

I include here these observations about the Epistle to the Hebrews, even though it is not itself a work of fiction, as an example of how, like magic, a little prose, even a piece of prose without an universally acknowledged author, can have a huge influence.

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