I discovered I should write what I know, but I also found others saying I didn’t have to be limited to writing what I knew. I would have to do reams of research, but it was OK to stretch out beyond the boundaries of me. But then someone said I shouldn’t burden the reader with the voluminous details of my research. Nothing should get in the way of the story.
I should show, not tell. Anton Chekhov writes, “Don't tell me the moon is shining; Show me the glint of light on broken glass.” That is genius. On the other hand, if all I do is show, the story might race ahead of the reader at such a pace that he or she never manages to get to that essential place of emotional connection. I better do some telling.
I should be careful how I insert a character’s backstory. I mustn’t let it get in the way of the present action. Here’s the rub on that one, unless the reader understands my characters’ motivations for doing what they’re doing, the story won’t make any sense. So I better figure out a way to get some of that backstory in.
First person, third person, omniscient narrator – point of view is the crux of the story. No, wait – it’s all about the characters. No wait – plot drives the story. As I was about to give into despair, I see that Anais Nin tells us, “The role of a writer is not to say what we all can say, but what we are unable to say.” That clears up a lot.
Write all the time, I am told. Hone your craft through flash fiction and short stories. After all, Ernest Hemingway is credited with writing the shortest piece of fiction ever:Baby shoes – for sale. Never used. Talk about slamming the reader against a wall with six little words! Mr. Hemingway –“Your tale, sir, would cure deafness” (William Shakespeare, The Tempest – Act I – Scene II). We salute you.
Sometimes I feel as though I’m trapped in a scene from the movie, Apocalypse Now, running through the jungle, wildly in search of a definitive answer, a way to do this writing thing right.
In searching out what others have to say about the writing process, I find out more, realize I doubt everything I knew before, and finally discover that there is always more to know.
At the end of the day, I console myself with the words of Picasso. “Everything you can imagine is real.” I go for it – I imagine and I keep writing. A writer must write. Full stop!
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