Editor’s note: One of our Visionary Fiction Alliance founding members, Margaret Duarte, wrote a review of Rea Martin Nolan’s latest book, Mystic Tea. You can read the review here. We were so pleased with how Rea represented Visionary Fiction that we asked her to share her perspective on what is important in writing Visionary Fiction, and how she goes about writing it. Here is Rea’s insightful response.
Visionary fiction is a delicate matter requiring a mastery of creative and technical balance. Unlike Fantasy, which generally takes place entirely in realms of the authors invention, Visionary Fiction is best told in the firmament of human physical and emotional experience. For me, at least, the goal is not to write exclusively for mystics, but for readers in the process of awakening. This requires an accessible entry point with opening scenes steeped in familiar culture, grounded in temporal human experience.
Since Visionary Fiction bears witness and insight into expanded awareness, the question then is how to balance the story structure. I have been writing what is now known as Visionary Fiction for twenty years. In my short stories, first two novels, and the third novel, The Anesthesia Gamewhich will debut this year, I maintain a similar ratio of concrete to mystical of about 2:1. Of course (being visionary) I didn’t craft this ratio consciously. However, looking back, I see what I’ve done time and again. This ratio has been so successful for me because it grounds the reader firmly in the third dimension before introducing any significant mystical or esoteric scenes. By the time the story launches into the mystical, the reader perceives it almost entirely through the eyes of one or more of my character/s. If I have made those characters credible, the reader will find the visionary experience likewise credible. In this context, character development that rises organically through the storyline is mandatory. All characters and experiences within the story must connect masterfully.
Using this structure as a guideline, the first third of the story concentrates on the five senses, while introducing or at least foreshadowing the mystical thread. In the second (or transitional) third, that thread is pulled delicately through, expanding it incrementally until the mystical feature is almost, but not quite equal to the physical and emotional features of the storyline. At this point the mystical world is threatening or inviting the reader inside, compounding tension to character and plot—worrying the reader—which way will it go?
In the last third, the balance surrenders to the mystical. If I have done this successfully, I have transported the reader with me through a looking glass into a world that reflects, illuminates and expands awareness. Hopefully, I have done this in an entertaining manner, embodying a breadth of human experience.
‘Voice’ and ‘Tone’ are as crucial to the success of our genre as to any other. Even these must be employed with delicacy. Attempting to ‘teach’ or ‘tell’ a reader everything I think I know is a technique doomed to failure. If I am in a hurry to regurgitate everything at once, I should probably be writing memoir or inspirational nonfiction. Didactic stories under the guise of fiction often carry agendas that are far more transparent to the reader than the author realizes. My advice is to take your time. Reveal your story with patience, awareness, sensitivity, and plenty of character development. This way there’s an opportunity to learn as much as you teach.
Rea Nolan Martin has been writing Literary and Visionary Fiction for over twenty years. She is the author of two novels, The Sublime Transformation of Vera Wright (2009) and Mystic Tea(2014), as well as short stories and poetry published in national literary magazines and anthologies. She was a founding editor of Inkwell literary magazine, as well as an adjunct professor in the Master of Arts in Writing (MAW) program at Manhattanville College in Purchase, NY. Her inspirational blogs are published regularly in The Huffington Post and The Charter For Compassion. Her second novel, Mystic Tea, is the recipient of the 2014 IPPY gold medallion and US Best Book award for Visionary Fiction, as well as the 2014 Pinnacle gold medallion in the category of Literary Fiction. Her third novel, The Anesthesia Game, will be released in 2015.