When I initially began writing, I was purposed to write stories with meaning. Not just fluffy fun tales of over-powered heroes saving damsels in distress, beating the familiar evil villain, and then riding off into the sunset with said damsel. It was too cliched. Too fake. Too fictional.
Hence that amazing quote by Anais Nin on the title of my blog. “Not what we all can say, but what we are unable to say.” There could be many reasons why we might not be able to say something, but in our writing we can most certainly elaborate on them. Explore and expound for others to read and comprehend.
I’ve thought about changing that quote a number of times in the past, but I can’t get past the truth it speaks. It guided my tentative steps into serious writing. As fun as writing fan-fiction and ghost stories can be, sometimes I needed to write something with substance. Something concrete, addressing a personal issue or belief. I attempted a lot these in the past, ranging from Christianity to relationships to my greatest fears.
Here’s an excerpt from a piece of writing I labelled The Past:
…is like a dark cave, contaminated, murky, fearsome place, one that we cordon off and try to forget about, ignoring the signs all around us that point back to it. But we cannot escape it. We sometimes linger at its entrance, gazing within the dark confines to see what can be seen. Safe enough. Safe enough away from what we know is within its depths. We know of the familiar creature within, one that bares an undeniably resemblance to ourselves, except for its blank dead eyes, dead in trespasses and sins, blinded from the truth willingly.
I was in a dark place for a while.
Self vs Other
These days I seem to be driven by concepts that are ‘out there’ rather than close to me. Removing self from the story and characters to create something outside of me. It’s much easier to ignore introspection. To escape to books and movies and music and art.
I could only hope to recreate those sensations in my readers. However, what I failed to notice, was that each creator of those inspirational works had their own directive to their creation, a source that guided their work. It not only made them unique, but I as the recipient of their creativity, was able to experience what they experienced much deeper and fuller.
Combining self and these external sources, can create something beautiful. For example:
- Adele’s soulful musical style was inspired by her own heartbreak, relationships, and a desire to making up for all the lost time through nostalgia and melancholy – yet she was inspired by Amy Winehouse and the album Frank.
- Masamune Shirow (Masanori Ota) is a qualified oil painter, and creator of Ghost in the Shell and Appleseed. He writes thoughtful post apocalyptic cyberpunk futures with female protagonists – inspired by (and creator of) erotic art.
- Stephen King’s stories involve the “every day man” thrust into a horror-fueled adventure, with running commentary on abusive, religious mothers (or priests) – the king of horror was inspired by other kings of horror H.P. Lovecraft and Richard Matheson.
- Quentin Tarantino’s non-linear stories driven by gore and satire, are a manifestation of his creative mind – inspired by old music, where he uses the music to create scenes in his head and bring them to life.
Prolific creative figures who have combined their own experiences with their inspiration to produce amazing works.
When I make a film, I am hoping to reinvent the genre a little bit. I just do it my way. I make my own little Quentin versions of them.
~ Quentin Tarantino
Truth in Fiction
Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying every story I write will be an obscured memoir of things I want to say but can’t say. I am saying, however, that there will be elements of ‘my truth’ to each story. Drawing from me and drawing from outside of myself to create. Ultimately sharing my truth in fiction, and still having a great story to tell. Combined with world building and character building, I can fully embrace a character and world without feeling like a stranger in my own story.
Like a ghost in a shell.
What does your writing process entail? How much of yourself do you put into your stories? Is your main character usually you or a version of you, or do you draw other people as your characters? What’s your inspiration?
Sounds like you’re very similar to me in how you approach your writing. It has to have meaning to me, but the craft is putting that meaning into a format others can understand and enjoy.
This is the first time that I explore my own writing style and thought process in detail, examining the why’s and what’s, comparing previous works and current works to make sense of it all. It’s been fun but more importantly, illuminating.
And I agree, the craft (and hard work) is getting that format right. Others seem to do it with ease, while I toil away like a lumberjack with a blunt axe.
It’s a good exercise to understand why you write what you do. I think my problem is I over analyse my intentions to convey meaning, and that can get in the way of making them into a good story.
I have the opposite issue. I tend to focus on making the story good and I end up losing what I’m trying to convey. It becomes more about the action than the reason behind the action. The action of pulling the trigger rather than the deliberation of why it needs to be pulled at all.
This is true and so important. I think all of us, as writers, put a little bit of ourselves into our writing. Some more than others. But I’ll admit that I’ve noticed the same thing as you. I used to write a lot of “fiction” and now my writing has become more “real.” The novel I wrote for April’s Camp NaNo, “Unwritten,” is based off some things I’ve gone through in real mixed in with fears that I have. It’s fun to write about and, growing from those experiences, I think my writing has improved so much.
It’s wonderful to see your writing grow isn’t it? And writing something personal carries a whole different set of emotions to the story for yourself. Like a part of you exists in that story.
I think fiction has it’s place, like my flash fiction from Friday (ooh alliteration haha) was a random fun piece without any real “substance”. And not everything we write has to be a life lesson, but when we do write like that, I think our story gains an edge.
It really is amazing. Writing is a wonderful thing that I wish everyone could experience.
I agree. “Unwritten” has a lot of “lessons” in it, but my mystery series is more on the fictional side of things. While I’ve been doing research on police procedural and such, I’ve never experienced it. Plus, the novel is comedic too. It’s not like a hardcore thriller.
But I still really enjoyed your flash fiction, despite the imagination in it. Imagination is a huge part as well.
Hero stories are not without their meaning. They are, after all, the oldest form of fiction in our history. There’ something enticing about people who can do amazing things that we cannot. It’s more than just escapism, the ancient Greeks didn’t read Homer to escape their lives. I love Ghost in the Shell, too. One of my favorite science fiction series of all time. I did not know Shirow was a painter. That’s my new fact for the day, I guess.
Thanks for the comment.
You’re right, it’s not always about escapism. There are many other reasons why fiction was shared and explored and enjoyed. From boosting morale to passing time to delving into an epic that could never happen except for outside of reality.
In my case, I delve into fiction for the escapism it offers into new and fascinating worlds, with characters who do amazing (or stupid) things. For a time, reality is forgotten. I can live in a village of ninjas who keep tailed beasts. I can live in a world where a book exists that can kill you if your name is written in it. I can live in a world of mechs, and titans, and alien warriors. That too is the power of fiction.
I’m all about the escape!
Haha! Now imagine escaping into your own writing. Now that’s one hell of a trip!
Just had a great write session, actually. Just wrote the climax of a novella. Now I can feel the adrenaline in my veins.
It’s a great experience yes? What are you working on? How much can you share?
I’d rather not share much, except to say its a genre fantasy interpretation of a fairy tale with a young heroine at its center. And a nice, believable villain. This is only my second long project. I’ve been writing short stories more than anything else these days. So it sure has been interesting.
I’m sure it has. Well I look forward to reading it one day. Happy writing!