Bejeweled grasses on the prairie.
“Every time I read a novel I wonder how much of it is really the author.”
It’s a simple question, deserving of a succinct answer. I can’t answer for other authors, but I can tell you that for myself, every piece of fiction I write is exactly all of me and none of me … at the same time.
Think of a novel as the mind-child of its author. Where human progeny gets an even split of chromosomes from a mother and a father, a work of creative fiction gets every bit of its word makeup from one person: the writer. But every child will grow up to be her or his own person, because our “code” is not the entirety of our being, but only its genetic basis. Written works are not dissimilar, influenced by many people beyond the writer.
It can be as direct as when a beta-reader tells me a certain passage is awkward, and I rework that section. It can be as indirect as when I’m transcribing a scene from my mind to my computer and a character speaks, but as I type, I realize that’s something I’ve heard in real life. Influence extends from experience, dreams, commentary, and every other manner of input, coming from the most acute angle of direction to the most obtuse.
Learning to let my imagination go wherever it may wander, regardless of influence, has been the best possible lesson from the “free-writing” that I have learned in the decade or so that I’ve been practicing it. The idea is this: you take a writing prompt or story concept and you write for a set amount of time. You don’t backtrack or cross things out, you don’t worry about plausibility or marketability of a notion. You just WRITE. If you don’t know what to write, you’re supposed to write: “I don’t know what to write.” until you do.
Editing can come later, as long as you have written something so that you can edit it! Free-writing helps me get words on a page, which is the first and perhaps most daunting phase of crafting a story.
Life is made of stories, the ones we tell ourselves and the ones we tell others. The things that go into those stories are not as original as we might like them to be, but how we each tell our stories is most unique! And the things that don’t strike us as being “truly creative” may well be the things to which others can relate, because as different as we and our experiences are, there is still a foundation … an underlying, shared humanity.
In my novel, Here & Now, my main character, Lila Dawkins is a writer. Well, I’m a writer, though I don’t have a baker’s dozen of published novels to my name as Lila does, and I certainly don’t have her supernatural gift. Is Lila me? Yes, and no. Yes, because she is my idea and we are both writers. No, because I can’t experience other people’s memories embedded in objects … I’m not even sure such a thing would be possible!
It doesn’t matter if I think something that happens in a story is possible, as long as I can imagine that it is, and as long as I can describe a character’s responses to a situation in a way that a reader can follow … that a reader wants to follow. If there’s anything that a writer must bring to a novel, it’s the idea that the story could be true, and the wish that it might be true.
Truth is not as blunt as we’d like it to be in any of our stories. Truth lies along a spectrum of experience, like all of the tales we tell through our lives. It’s in the little bits of detail that make up our days, from the emblems on the cups from which we drink our tea to the surge of emotion we feel when we meet someone who feels important to us, even though we don’t know them well yet. Truth is a hug from a best friend who will ride to our rescue even if they know we don’t need rescuing, we just need a friend.
The truth is, stories are intertwined in too many ways to enumerate, and the ones I tell in novels—yes, novels, as I have one more in editing and another in progress, there are at least three in me in total—are just as real in my mind as anything I read in print. My novels are all of me and none of me.
I wonder how much of my novels are their readers!
I’m thrilled to announce that my first novel, Here & Now, is now available in both paperback and Kindle formats on Amazon.com! It will also be on Smashwords, hopefully just in the nick of time for Christmas!
Author Lila Dawkins has a secret: she experiences other people’s powerful memories by touching objects that were important to them. But the stress of this special ability has a way of accumulating, and Lila makes increasingly frequent visits to her remote Wyoming cabin to mitigate the tension wrought by the constant chatter of people and their precious things.
This time, when Lila arrives at her cabin to recoup, she finds her safe haven less than restorative. It’s not only the death of an old friend that disrupts Lila’s sanctuary or the surprising company of two new neighbors. Lila is also picking up signals from an unknown object somewhere in the vicinity, and the terrifying past events infused into the mysterious thing somehow connect them all … Lila, her friend, and her neighbors.
Carrying both her own burdens and those of others, is there any way Lila can let go of her past and future fears? Can she find a way to live—to thrive—Here & Now?
The beautiful artwork here is part of the cover design by Fred Dye; see more of Fred’s work at freddye.com.
The fourth issue of 2nd & Church came out early in 2014 and it’s the biggest issue yet, with 74 pages of wonderful reading! To read the Journalism Issue, including a lovely tribute to Nashville’s John Egerton, visit 2ndandchurch.com and click the link to MagCloud on the left.
I am delighted to be participating in the Onalaska Public Library’s Inspirations and Possibilities art show! Two of my photographs are on display, with many other wonderful works of art created by a variety of area artists. The show opened yesterday (September 4) and is open through September 29.
The Library will receive 20% of any art sold during this show … it is a great opportunity to support both local artists and the Library!
I have been remiss … the third issue of 2nd & Church is out! If you haven’t read 2nd & Church yet, Issue 3 is a great starter piece: 64 pages and all of it good reading! And if you have read our magazine, you know you won’t want to miss a single issue. Visit 2ndandchurch.com and click the link to MagCloud on the left. If you prefer reading magazines the old-fashioned way, you can now subscribe.
I am delighted to be featured on The Prairie Enthusiasts’ home page as one of the five finalists in their 2013 Photo Contest (keep refreshing the page until you see all of the five finalist photos)! From their website, “The Prairie Enthusiasts (TPE) is a private organization committed to the protection and management of native prairie and savanna of the Upper Midwest.” The diverse and beautiful prairie and savanna ecosystems are fantastic for plant and wildlife, and therefore, for photography as well.
I am excited to announce that I am showing a collection of my winter photography at Jackie O’s Coffee House through the holidays! There will also be an artist’s reception on Saturday, December 1 from 9:00–11:00 a.m.
Come savor Jackie O’s incredible coffee, scones, and other tasty treats, and also enjoy my photographs of winter scenes that celebrate the calming beauty of nature!