Saturday, September 12, 2009

Sweet Freedom

Donis typing today. Last week I talked about the conundrum authors face after writing several books in a series.  You love your characters, but you get tired of having them in the same situations or locations, book after book.  You want to do something different with them, and yet you are a bit worried about messing with success.  Will your readers be unhappy if you depart from the tried-and-true?  If the thing they enjoyed so much about the series changes too much?  How much change is too much?

I had lunch with my editor this week to discuss the problem, and she basically told me to go for it.  I felt like a weight had been lifted off my shoulders.

And yet, why didn’t I figure this out myself?  You can have all the skill and craft in the world, but if you aren’t in love with your story, your writing is not going to have any spark. I smell a life lesson, here.

As Joseph Campbell said, follow your bliss. My problem has always been knowing what my bliss is, and I suspect that I am not alone in this. There are so many pressures on us, so many duties and responsibilities.  We forget how we got to this place, and why we made the choices we did in the first place. 

Why do you want to write, anyway?  Personally, I love to tell a story.  I love to lead the reader on, up and down, over and through, and take her some place she never expected. This may have something to do with my upbringing, among a group of the most amazing tale-tellers and bullshitters (if I may be crude) that ever were.  Perhaps I was an African griot in a former life. Mysteries are tailor-made for this sort of story telling, but I’ve been delighted by stories in all kinds of genres.  In The Seven Pillars of Wisdom, T.E. Lawrence relates that he once spent an entire night with Arab tribesmen around a fire, spinning a tale that kept them on the edge of their seats, and in the end, the climax of the story was “And then the sun rose.” He led them on a fascinating journey to a place they never expected, and he was so good at it that it didn’t matter where they ended up, even if it was nowhere.

I am more interested in the journey than the destination.  I love the words and the images, the human insights and emotions, intimately getting to know the characters and their lives.

Why do you write?  Writing fiction is often difficult and painful.  What keeps you going? Is there a point you want to get across?  Something important you want to say?  An idea you want to explore?  Are you trying to make a living?  Do you crave accolades?  You just can’t help yourself?  There are probably as many reasons as there are writers, and as long as it works for you, it’s all good.

Speaking of good, our guest blogger tomorrow is one of my very favorite historical mystery authors, Beverle Graves Myers.  Her Deadly Mischief is the latest installment in her fascinating series set in Eighteenth Century Venice, featuring castrato opera singer Tito Amado, who has a “stellar nose for sleuthing.”  What an interesting, unusual idea, and what a lush and beautifully written series it is!

1 comment:

Charles benoit said...

I also describe myself as a storyteller. I think it fits best for the many hats I wear.