Helga’s Post # 115: If you have been following our blog you know that seven crazy writers are now fully committed to writing a novel by the deadline of February 5 of next year. Some of us start from scratch (myself included – I need the challenge) and some continue or re-write a work in progress.
Why are we doing this? Especially since the writer’s complaint bag is stuffed full with blights of our trade. Rarely do you hear one of us telling how incredibly lucky writers are, how fantastic the pay, how short our work week, how our friends believe in our success even if we are yet to be published after untold years of trying.
What makes us persist, year after miserable year, in this (on surface) least rewarding profession? Do we really have to be masochists to become writers? Why are we stubbornly clinging to the lofty goal of writing that novel that’s been playing havoc with our peace of mind for so long? The stories that take over much of our daily routine and then keep us awake at night.
That’s what this post is all about.
We have our novel all worked out of course, in vivid detail, with countless brilliant scenes and larger-than-life characters. We have a protagonist no reader is likely ever to forget, no, even fall in love with head over heels, and an antagonist that is beyond evil and so chilling he gives us nightmares.
Except for one slight problem… this wonderful, unforgettable epic novel exists only in our head. It resides there squarely, but try as we might, once we are ready to tease it from the recesses of our brain and put it in words, on screen, the story has turned nebulous. It even may elude us entirely. Perhaps we lose our self-confidence in the plot; the story suddenly has no legs (a writer’s biggest nemesis). Any of these could defy our attempts to make it real, to share it with the world.
Well, not all writers are equally challenged. We use different tools and tricks to make our stories real. Some of us are outliners, some are pantsers (what’s more, there’s even a hybrid: plantster) Whatever works. But there is another trick most of us use, even subconsciously.
We write autobiographies. I am willing to go out on a limb on this. We don’t simply invent characters. We create them in on our own image and the image of people who have touched our lives. Inventing characters based on real people allows the writer to go deeper than they’ve gone before emotionally. In fiction, writers aim to move our hearts. Not only the readers’ hearts, but our own hearts too. And I believe that herein lies much of the motivation for writing fiction:
Because it gives us a measure of power and control over our lives. It lets us create and recreate a life of our choosing. Fictional, yes, but we learn from it. The creative process may guide us in our real lives as well. In our stories we can reward the people we love, and take brutal revenge on those who have hurt us. With a click on the keyboard we can annihilate enemies. We are able to bestow everlasting happiness on those characters we love in real life (including, or especially, ourselves). We can bring people back from the dead and send others to hell. We enable our characters to master one of the toughest challenges of all: Learning how to forgive. Ultimately they will teach us.