Fiction Writing as an Invention of the Observer

My titles probably seem pretty vague: I’m not in a creativity phase. I’m in a no-caffiene (heh. somewhat), focused force-to-be-reckoned with. It means, basically, Some Of The Best Writers Aren’t Writers At All. They are observers. They are adventurers. They are experts in their field, and know so much about a thing, they can write flawlessly about it. As fiction.

This blog continues on an earlier post (probably the most recent) where I run down rabbit-holes looking for answers to something I can’t quite ratify.

1) Writing is more than writing. Or should be. Otherwise, it’s just a plot biting holes in the tail-end of ideas masquerading as characters-of-motion.

2) Some of the strongest writers aren’t. They’re sometimes emotional, sometimes violent, sometimes drug-addled, sometimes starving and living out of garbage cans. They fight daily through a mire of retail, or customer service, or assisting a dying parent (or two) while desperately looking for a personal life. Some writers have to chew and tear through every piece of fabric and wall to explode into an editor’s office. Some writers are simply surviving. Some of the strongest writers are, simply, the daydreamers that feel so explosively compelled to write that they sit down, scream to a keyboard, and walk away with bloodied fingers. I used to be this way. If I were single, I’d be a volatile, poetic, violent writer. I’m not. I’m content.

3) Some writers write to make money, or be noticed, or be applauded, or be back-patted; the mama’s-boys after soccer practice hoping to impress their friends. Others write to learn about themselves; crises survivors or manic dreamers stretching possibilties between characters to understand–or perhaps explain–themselves to others. Still others write to connect constellatory dots in their heads, pursuing an internal hypothesis that invariably ends with the culmination of the story, or shortly before; researchers, drug-users, all those people diving into the possible what if of fiction. All have their places. A good, critical eye can see the writing of each. Usually it comes from an underlying fear or focus, like knowing the difference between scifi and fantasy in Avatar. What does Avatar focus on? The magic? Or the socio-political?

A writer doesn’t have to be trained. In fact, most hugely successful writers ignore all those molds and write what they want. I’ve read so many “So Yuh Wanna Write uh Fantasy?” novels my head spins. My best novel, in terms of cohesiveness and connectivity, is still the first one I finished in the fledgling years of college. It’s fun, compelling, all the story parts work together, no fat to the plot, no regurgitation to the dialogue, and all the characters grow without infodumping. The content is pretty bitchin, too.

Training sometimes stunts the writer. Some of the greatest advice I got in college came from one of my professors: “You want to be a professional writer? Get a science degree, make money, and focus on writing after you get settled in. You’ll be a better person for it.”

I didn’t follow that advice, even though I was obsessively in love with science-related fields. He understood something I didn’t: world experience only strengthens the writing. And I agree. It does. It’s incredible how much experience I get in understanding group dynamics by working in an office.

I’m working on a friend’s MS: he wrote an autobiographical (perhaps memoir) account of his college days, and the damaging effects it had on him. The work is tense, powerfully so, with sarcastic quips to separate bouts of intense frustration. He’s never written, or pursued a career in writing. He loves to write, and he’s been writing for a bit, but he had all but given up on getting published before I asked to see it.

I’ve read hundreds of books, fiction and otherwise, and his is a work I’d actually want to read if I found it on the shelf. I’m a picky guy, too, when it comes to all types of media (see previous entry).

It all comes down to a simple bit of advice: don’t worry about knowing everything writing-related. In fact, don’t worry about it at all. Finish your book, send it to someone you trust to read it, and let it flow. If you’re thinking about writing, do it. I know so many incredible writers who decided not to put any effort into the book, and let it dissolve in the alka-seltzer. So many brilliant ideas wasted, or ignored, or forgotten.

Even if you have only One Good Idea, write it. It could be world-changing.


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