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Wish-fulfillment and writing

The Big Peat

Darth Buddha
Apr 9, 2016
Great responses so far.

I was reminded today of something I read about Ian Fleming's James Bond novels, which were really all wish-fulfillment. Not only for the author, but the readers, who in 1950s austerity Britain loved to imagine themselves drinking Dom Perignon 48 (or whatever), getting their shirts handmade in Jermyn Street, smoking expensive cigars and wasting shady foreign types who threatened Britain's interests. By drawing on his own wishes, and having them equal a large proportion of the reading public's, Fleming had a massive success.

So far, so obvious. Same goes for the "sex and shopping" novels. And same for Harry Potter, I imagine -- replacing the reader's own school with something rooted in much the same culture but magical and adventurous.

But is it harder to do in most SFF? Though a reader might get a vicarious thrill from reading about a sword-wielding hero, hacking orcs to bits isn't something most people really want to do, or can translate to their real-world selves.
I don't desiring (or having an interest in) hacking orcs to bits is all that different to having the liver of a god and shooting a lot of shady foreign types. It's the same basic thing appealing to the same basic urges and as such, I don't think its any harder. I think SFF has suffered for a while for people going "Pfft, Orcs aren't real", but judging from the current popularity of SFF in mainstream media, that stigma isn't there to the same effect.

On a larger scale... I think there's some elements of wish fulfillment in my writing. I have to get past my urge to deny all relationship to it because it seems to be a very dirty word and people see it as a zero-sum thing (as Bluestocking points out, its not) but yes, there's things in my stories that I wish existed, things my characters do that I wish I could do and so on. I mean, of course there is, because I wouldn't put things into my stories if they weren't cool and if they're cool, of course I want to do them.

But at the same time, I also want to explore things that I don't really want any part of.

Also... I guess there's some elements you could call wish fulfilment but are more angry venting. I remember when I did my interview with @Biskit he talked about how a lot of his writing had a venting. Both are about what you want to see (in some ways, not all) but they come from very different places.


I have my very own plant pot!
Jan 4, 2018
North-east England
Also... I guess there's some elements you could call wish fulfilment but are more angry venting.
That's something I can relate to. The primary antagonist in my current big WiP is essentially venting all of his frustrations on the world. And he is soooo fun to write! I would never want to get anywhere close to anything he does but it feels damn good to put some of it on paper. (Not all of it. I'm not THAT messed up.)

Toby Frost

Well-Known Member
Jan 22, 2008
Certainly, the angry venting is there. When I did the first rough draft of Up To The Throne, years ago, I was unemployed and angry that I'd spent a lot of money on a professional qualification that was, to all extends and purposes, useless. Writing a book about someone who could ignore the hierarchy of society by climbing in through the window was very appealing. That mixture of "failed citizen by day, master criminal by night" was a good vent for it.

And here we are, a few years on. It seems to me that now, thanks to a couple of things I won't go into, the most blatant corruption goes unchecked and democracy is going down the drain. I feel the same anger and frustration as I did back then, and it's a pleasure to go back to characters who can actually do something about it.

The Bluestocking

Bloody Mary in Blue
Feb 20, 2014
The Afterlife
I write comic fantasy so I use humour as a way of taking potshots at a whole range of issues etc that bother me. Everything from misogyny to fashion to religion. There's a long tradition of writers using humour/comedy to do just that.

And I adhere to Terry Pratchett's rule about not punching down when poking fun: when you punch down using humour, that's no longer humour - that's bullying.