I guess there’s this fundamental dilemma that the writer must face – and when I say The Writer I am of course speaking in the royal we sense, of Me the writer. But I universalize this experience since my sample size is one, and thus must be the constant for all that type of individual called writer.
But getting back to the dilemma; what to write about?
Sometimes this is simple. A topic, a subject, a tale, it jumps out at you and takes you by the throat (or begs you to take it by the throat, but that’s another story for a different entry). But sometimes, more times, it’s less pure and clean and simple.
This thread, this train of though, speaks both to writing here, and to writing in general, writing the fiction I am generally focused on. Because in both cases, there are long list of things to say, but so many reasons not to say one or the other.
In fiction, the first and most vital thing is this – tell a good story. And for all the thoughts, all the ideas, all the buds and stems of stories, how many bear fruit? How many are worth the telling, in the end? What is truly worth the saying? And when is the way of telling more important than the story told?
And then there is this – what should be said? What can be said? For the mind of the writer takes everything in as potential inspiration. Friends, enemies, events, interactions, disagreements, encounters. The pretty young barrista who made my espresso yesterday, she may, tomorrow, become a character n some seedy bar in some seedy tale. The geezer driving in the next car over, who cut me off merging in traffic? He may find himself dead on the written page, slain in some ugly, slow and painful way.
And you – you who are in my life in certain ways, secret or not, public or not; you are all characters in stories I tell in my head. Yet your secrets are not mine to tell, so what I may say is then changed by the the need to be fair an kind with you, to protect your privacy and guard your whispered confessions.
There’s a story I want to tell. I suppose this is what Bukowski, Fante, Kerouac, a thousand others, what they said to themselves. There’s a story I want to tell, and in a sense it’s my story, and in a sense it’s not, but somehow I am always the main character. Which makes my life the story, and those I know the characters. I wish I could ask those men, how did you manage, when your life is your story, and your private, suddenly public? How did your loved ones manage when their secrets became public, when their words come from the mouths of characters on the printed page? Yes, such things are often veiled, but sometimes the veil must be thin or the essence of the character, the event, the motivation is lost.
So there are stories I wish to tell. But which to tell? Which to write? The science fiction and fantasy I daydreamed as a child, still stored away with characters and universes, war and love and death? Tales of dark crime and tough heros? Or can one simply tell a story of a man and his struggles with ordinary life? Is the level of literary pretension too high?
For the central element of all these stories is love; pain and love and death and love and war and love. Crime and passion and desire, heroism, villainy, magic and evil. Love and pain, these are the threads that connect them all.
And I am back, with that, to threads from the lives of real people.
Is this a closed loop with no way out?
I start many stories. There is never a shortage, it seems, of ideas and images. It’s the finishing that seems to be my bane. And that, I suppose, is another entry for another time.