Wednesday, February 07, 2007

On Creation

Writing is creation, pure and simple. That seems like a "duh" statement, but it really is.

Think about your favorite books as a kid, the ones you read over and over and over. For me it was Anne of Green Gables, Eight Cousins, and although I blush to admit it now, Pollyanna. I had no doubt that there was a place somewhere that I would meet those people. Part of me, many years later, is still convinced that Anne Shirley Blythe exists.

When my sister and I wrote our first novel together, we delved so thoroughly into the backgrounds of our major characters that there aren't many questions you could ask us about them that we couldn't have answered. Virtually none of that information made its way into the novel, but that's not why we needed to know it. We needed to know that about our characters so that we could understand what went into making them who they were, why they acted the way they did, why they thought what they thought. It made them complete.

When I was 19 or 20, I remember trying to write a Twilight Zone type story. It involved a doll that was possessed by a demon, and the story's been written dozens of times by better writers than I. But I made that doll come to life. I got part of the way through my story, and was tired and lay it down so I could go to bed. But I could not sleep for anything. It was like the doll itself was sitting on the table waiting for me to go to sleep so it could rip my throat out. I tossed and turned for a while, and then got up and took the story downstairs. I tried again to go to sleep, but just knew that damn doll was going to come upstairs and get me as soon as I went to sleep. I finally gave up in disgust, ripped up the story and threw the bits of paper in the trash bin outside. Some stories are not meant to be written, at least by me, because some things are not meant to be brought to life by my hand.

I keep a notebook of ideas for books. I'm obsessed with Chaucer, and will spend the rest of my life telling the Canterbury Tales in one way or another. But aside from that, I want to tell my own stories. So I have this notebook of things that I've dreamed, or overheard, or flashes of inspiration from my muse. Most of them I'll probably never write. Some I've written a few pages, where I've written a few chapters of others. Some I realize that while they may be fantastic tales, I'm not capable of bringing them to life, for various reasons.

If I'm going to write a novel, or even a short story--and I really struggle with my short stories--that means I'm going to spend a lot of time with my characters. They're going to become real to me. I will know everything about them. I will be their creator, their deity. I cannot make them do anything against their will, as they will act as they will, regardless of my desires. And I just got another flash right there, another idea for a story that I may write someday.

Writing is creation. Be careful what you create, because it will be real, to you, even if to no one else!

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