Photography is often used to capture an exact moment in time with almost scientific accuracy whereas an artist usually spends more time, carefully choosing and applying each brush stroke, one at a time, perfecting his own interpretation of the subject. Whilst the artist is arguably least bound by reality, it is photography that misleads and even deceives more often.
Story telling is about weaving a delicate fabric held together by the finest of threads, so gossamer thin that it is almost an illusion. But what happens when you hold your finished cloth up to the light? Will you find mistakes that tell of haste or incompetence or worst yet, holes? Such is the story teller’s art, he has to weave those threads with precision and skill so that the whole cloth when finished not only holds together but is harmonious and beautiful in design.
That cloth, or story, has to be believable, its reality has to be tangible, even if it is the reality of another world (because even fantasy has its own reality). But how does a story-teller or writer create reality? Is it by the talented application of brush strokes that may be layers deep or is it by writing from their own concrete reality, capturing a world frame by frame, frozen in a snapshot of words?
I’m not sure myself, I’d hazard that perhaps the best results are achieved when both the scientific and artistic are developed within one piece, accuracy but with personal interpretation. ‘Artistic license’ may have its moments but so does precision.
So how do you write from reality? After all, reality is a perception. Each man’s normal is only his own so both reality and normal are fallible. Believing in your own normal can give you a very restricted world view and reality is just what you have experienced. Can you write of anything other than your own experience? Should you even try?
I doubt my ability to write because of my limited reality, I know and readily admit that my normal is most likely no one else’s. On the spectrum of human activity, my experience is narrow. So what should or can I write of?
Perhaps it would be easier to fall back on stereotypes and clichés as an easy access route to story telling. But it’s hard to engage with two-dimensional, stamped-out characters parading their wares on the stage of a cardboard cut-out paper theatre. It’s not what I want to read. It’s not what I want to write.
My biggest difficulty is that I like to keep it safe. I dread conflict in the real world and in the fictional. I’m loathed to write it, living out each tense moment word by word, or worse still, embarrassing moment. I get anxious and stressed out thinking about conflict, about confrontation, sick to the stomach when I see it played out in front of me whether through words or on a screen.
But readers want conflict! Conflict engages your readers!
Really? Is that the reality? It isn’t mine.
I want stories where everything ends up good or right, I want those happily-ever-afters. Those are the stories that I crave and seek out, what I prefer to read. So what do I write? Fairytales of prudish maidens skipping through some bucolic pastoral idyll?
Even for me.
It just isn’t me either, much as I love daisies.
So I guess that most readers probably aren’t looking for that kind of story either. Certainly not today, not anymore. The heavily moralistic tales went out a good century ago.
As much as I want the words that I read (and possibly write) to be a soft, snuggly duvet that hides and cushions me from the uglier aspects of reality, I have to admit that even my favourite, oft read books, novels, stories (however you choose to style them) have their own moments of loss, of pain, of fear, of conflict, of embarrassment. Why? Because good books, novels, stories (however you choose to style them) are about life and even allegories can’t escape the rain clouds.
I have to be prepared to face up to the rain clouds in my own stories. They will exist but I will have to trust that they won’t be quite so out as control as the metaphorical and literal storms of my own life and hopefully I can be the master of these storms that I will let pass through just as in real life. If it takes a little rain to make love grow, well, then I guess that’s true for stories too. They need a little rain to help them blossom, maybe even flourish.
It seems that it all comes down to confidence again. I need to trust myself, my abilities and my words. I have to believe in the worlds that I spin with my pen or keys because if I don’t believe in them, who will?