I can never tell if it’s ambition, self-belief, or some other factor that drives me to write to the lengths that I do. As much as I pay heed to the idea that there are no new stories, that things have been done before or that what we do as writers is only regurgitating the stuff of life into a form easier to get through, I know the reality of where I want to take it is somewhere else.
There’s a few ideas that surround the stories I tell, either by way of themes that come up, the reactions I want to provoke in those that read them, and even my own way of exploring ideas or concepts. As much as I know so many ideas have been done already, I still want to take those reading somewhere they haven’t thought of.
Yes, it’s true. I want to upset my readers. If they cry or are uncomfortable in moments, that’s fine by me. It isn’t just about capturing the notion of life being messy, but about drawing them into the story enough that they care. The things I write might never change a life beyond my own, but that doesn’t mean it’s a goal not worth pursuit.
In the very gradual process of working on my rewrites, I noticed a trait around my own writing that suddenly struck me as something automatic – a quality inherent in the way I write that answered a question I’ve had around it for a long, long time. Going back to the days I spent roleplaying online, I was always confused as why my words stood out. There was nothing that seemed particular interesting about the way I wrote, at least not to the person who was effortlessly throwing them onto the screen, and other than snap dialogue and seeming scene directions, all it had going for it was the ease with which it was read.
There had to be something more. Half a life later, I worked it out. At least, one of the qualities that it had.
For me there has always been a sense that I was plucking the words from the ether, where the dialogue and plots popped out near-formed. The process was intangible. I’d be in charge of setting up the characters, the scenes, and have a vague concept of how the events would play out, but it would be the writing process which allowed them to become real. The words would either work, or not, and I’d update or rewrite as I needed to.
There was a lot of letting the story write itself, characters rolling with the autonomy I’d given them, and generally things just happening. With that it’d be my way of expressing the action, or writing the dialogue and such, that stood out. I’d often reach for an uncommon word not because it was the one a thesaurus took me too, but the one that made itself known when I started the sentence.
This idea of being guided by the flow is nice, but it doesn’t work so well with rewrites.
With the piece I’ve been slowly working through, some have said it doesn’t need a lot of work to be publishable – that it’s already readable. Of course these words come with the restriction of the story being serviceable but nothing groundbreaking. It might be that this story can’t be that. It can’t break ground. Hell, the thing was conceived as a foundation for further stories that could themselves go somewhere unfathomable, the first play in a series of events that formed some massive over-story.
At the moment it’s all fine-tuning. Getting those minor changes in that help it build momentum, that dodge around the hand-waving needed to ignore things like timelines or coincidence or even attachment between the characters.
There are themes that come up repeatedly for me, not just in this story, but across so much of my work – the possibility and plausibility of redemption, the exploration of identity, them kind of things – they’ve always been ways for me to explore my own thoughts on these issues. As a pretty ridiculous perfectionist who maintains an aloof sense of both place and belonging in this life, they’re ideas very close to my heart and have been for a long amount of time. There are also story ideas that these feed into which turn the writing process into as much a task of introspection as it is of entertainment.
I’m also not too big on twists being a vital part of a narrative. I like twists. I like subverting expectations. I don’t like either of those things as being where the worth of a story is derived from, but see them more as an added bonus for the reader to enjoy. It’s more the moving parts, the chaos of life that somehow lines up to create perfect moments which interest me. Our lives are things of coincidence in many respects, and my favourite stories to both write and experience, are those where there are many threads that coalesce into a series of perfect moments.
You would need to go back a long way in my history of writing to find one where there aren’t moving parts. The way the pieces bounce off one another like a happy dash on a pinball machine create the best moments, and even when the writing needs work, having these elevate what it’s like for me to read them to somewhere bettter.
All of these, the right writing, the proper and effective build of characters, the attainment of scenes that encapsulate a theme or that explore it well, they’re all on the list beyond being readable. As said, the current one could be a worthwhile read for most with only a few moments changed. I know it’s readable in its current state with simple flaws aplenty. It’s even enjoyable to some.
That’s still short of what I want it to be.
It might always be short of the goal, of changing lives or making bonds or provoking discussions that reach well into the night, but the goal will always be there.
Steal your readers away somewhere – take their breath and hold it ransom. Be amazing.