So, you may or may not have noticed, but I’m slowly developing a trend on this blog for posting meatier, philosophical, more abstract posts on a Monday, more concrete posts on writing on a Wednesday, and fun stuff on a Friday.
I’m going to consolidate this a bit, because the next few Mondays I want to talk about something that’s come out of one of my university classes: what it means to write, and why I write. I touched on this subject once a while ago, but I never managed to reach a reason that seemed to me to be very satisfying.
Equipped with the thinking coming out of my uni class, I think that I now am.
So, let us begin: probably attacking the whole thing backwards, I want to look today at why I continue to write.
It is a fundamental fact that no one story can ever tell all there is to tell about the events it purports to describe. There will always be other aspects, other points of view, different places to begin, different places to end. When we write, we make decisions: What shall we put in? What shall we leave out? What is significant to what we’re trying to say or show? How do we know?
How readers read our text is a direct result of our decisions: if we neglect to mention that the main character’s hair is brown, some people may imagine it as blonde, or red – or blue. But does this matter? If yes, then we should probably amend the text to include that fact that the MC’s hair is brown.
What we choose to put in is important.
Equally important is what we choose to leave out.
Too often when we write, we leave things out without really thinking about them. We write from a certain point of view because that is the one that occurs to us; we choose the view of the world that will be presented because it ‘feels’ right. We write the story because that’s how the story works, without stopping to consider what the long-lasting impacts in the story world might be; how other characters might feel about the story; whether what we’re saying really does justice to the issue at the heart of it, or whether we’re over-simplifying.
Issues are complex. Life is complex. And I love writing because it allows me to ponder this. Okay, so the hero won the day and evil is vanquished – but what Mr Evil Dude’s family? He had parents, somewhere, presumably. How do they feel about this so-called hero, who just murdered their only son?
Okay, so Mr X murdered a guy, which almost by definition makes him a Bad Person. But what if he hadn’t? What if the guy had lived? What if it would have made the world a worse place, would have turned it inside out and made it chaos?
This goes even for stories which purport to subvert genres norms: Okay, so you’re writing about the bad guys. Why? What are you leaving out on the hero’s side of things?
What ‘s left out matters as much as what’s left in.
So why do I continue to write? Because no one story can ever say it all.
Why do you continue to write?