Writer’s Journey: Aspire

Sometimes a writer has something to say, but won’t know what that is. It lies buried deep beneath the surface in the unconscious and it may take a story to trigger it. If someone asks a writer what he’s going to say with a piece of work, the writer might feel pressured for a grand answer before his unconscious even knows what words to choose to express it.

It can be difficult to express any theme or core of the material before actually writing. For some writers it is impossible to get there except through the characters and plot which unfolds a page at a time. A writer may feel a strong impulse to write about an angry young lord who was stripped of his title and inheritance.

If asked why she’s compelled to write about this particular character, there may be no rational answer; just a compulsion to explore this archetype and to bring it to life through certain details and encounters. By doing so, the writer will find more than a story. At some point the character she has chosen may come upon a situation where he finds himself about to enact a deed that will send another character into some misfortune. That moment is part of the writer’s grand design, or theme, and it could only have appeared by following the character of the story step by step.

In this way the writer has something that she wishes to say, but she may have no idea just what that will be until that moment arrives in the plot line. And then it will rapidly unfold perhaps as a surprise but always with some underlying feeling by the writer that it had somehow been there all along, waiting for the right moment to show itself to the reader.

This is why so many writers are urged to sit down at the page regularly and to write out their stories. There are many writers who will outline a story, and there is nothing wrong with a solid outline, but it is in the writing of a story that its deepest themes come forward. And this is one of the things that sets writing fiction apart from nonfiction. There is a vibrant truth about humanity at the heart of a well-crafted story.

To quote Lord Bacon, “Fiction gives to mankind what history denies, and, in some measure, satisfies the mind with shadows when it cannot enjoy the substance… And as real history gives us not the success of things according to the deserts of vice and virtue, Fiction corrects it, and presents us with the fates and fortunes of persons rewarded or punished according to merit.”

It is a rather didactic way to say that fiction is a place where authors discover truths about the human condition that are not always present in narratives of events which really happened. And it is why fiction is so important to people and society. In the right hands fiction becomes the ethic of an era; those things to which we aspire. That is why it is important for any writer to have something to say.


Meditation for your journal: Have you been compelled to tell a story about someone or something in particular lately? What is it?