Friday, June 5, 2009

When the Muse Strikes

I'm so excited about this month's give-away! Yes! Talking to the Dead has been unleashed! And in my giddy happiness, I'm likely to give away more than one copy of the book (hint, hint) - so keep those comments coming! We'll announce the winner(s) later in the month!

I admire sci-fi writers, fantasy writers too. They literally create other worlds - new languages, culture, ways to communicate. They invent religions and rites and often include maps of the lands they have created on the front flap of the book. Maps! I can't even draw an accurate map of the house I live in, never mind some place that doesn't even exist. And the names! How do they keep those strange names straight? No Bob and Sue for them - they choose mythical names dripping with historic meaning. Names like Oyrasa and Mabh.

I read those books and I think, where did all this come from? How did they invent all of this? And while I enjoy reading the books, the thought of inventing an entire world from the ground up (or in some cases several worlds), exhausts me. At least, that's what I used to think - before I starting writing novels.

Writing, like all art, is an uneven partnership between talent and tenacity, skill and sheer determination. It is the oil and water blending of spiraling creativity and 'pull up yer big boy pants and git 'er done' scheduling. I've learned that creating the inner life of a character is just as complex and perplexing as creating a new language for the inhabitants of planet XYZ to speak. At least, if I do it right.

It is the core of what makes the reading experience so enjoyable - the transmission of self into a world that is 'other'. It is not my world, but it is a world that I can navigate with ease because the author has placed all the landmarks exactly where I need them, and has crafted the path I will take through this land in such a way that it blends with the landscape, and I don't even think of myself as being on a predetermined path at all. The 'other' world becomes my world - at least for a time - and I accept the lie of fiction as a bearer of truth.

But when I began writing novels, I came to an understanding about creating fictional worlds. The answer to my question about fantasy and sci-fi books, "Where did this come from?" was answered as I grappled with my own imaginary worlds. It all comes from the foundations of literature, the traditions of art, history, religion, and philosophy. In other words, it all comes from us. The fictional worlds we love are really our world - no matter where the writer picks it up and moves it to. And the reason we love the places we travel when we read is because, in the end, they all feel like home.


Stace said...

For me, that entry into an "other" world is the key to whether I continue reading or close the book and move on. It's also the difference between reading one book by an author and picking up everything they have ever published, along with eagerly awaiting everything they ever will and wishing for more!

I think that immersion is also why so many of us love to read our stories in series form. Sometimes I finish a stand alone book and have this profound sense of disappointment - I've spent so much time with these people, cared so much about their lives and their challenges, and to never see or hear from them again is just sad. If an author does a truly excellent job, you may feel a satisfaction at the end, like the last filling bite of a magnificent dessert, but you still want more later.

Steve G said...

There are many authors who feel they have a story to share, and so should be published. The problem with some of these authors is that their story is their world, and the world they live in is quite different from most others. The story, then, has t be written in such a way to draw us in. That is good fiction (and non-fiction). You have to draw me into the world, in much the same way a preacher has to connect his message to his listeners. His message doesn't change, but his application or his delivery does.

Kathleen Popa said...

The best books I have read have helped me see my own world in a new way.

Wonderful post, Bonnie.

Pat Jeanne Davis said...

I thoroughly enjoyed your thoughts on when the muse srikes, Bonnie. All the best with your debut novel. Pat