As must surely be obvious, I took some time off from the ol’ blog due to some changes in the old personal life. There were also minor technical issues with the blog that I just didn't want to wrestle with. Equally obvious, I’ve decided to change the name and look of said ol’ blog for similar reasons.
With all that done, I thought it might be nice to re-launch with some thoughts about why we write fiction at all.
And the answer is pretty much f*ck all if I know, which is to say that it’s personal and varies by each individual writer. Everyone’s got their own demons and toys in the attic. But there is some common ground here. For example, sometimes, we just want to know how to survive a raptor attack.
How to Survive a Raptor Attack
All of the words you know were made up. Some of them came about by accident; others just kind of wandered into being and sat down for a cup of coffee. A few were invented by a clever misfit who couldn’t find the right word for a thing.
But we’ve been telling stories almost as long as we’ve been using words and gestures to communicate. In the early caveman-and-raptor days, (because in my world, they totally existed at the same time), stories weren’t just for fun because we hadn’t invented the Blu-Ray yet. Stories were survival; stories were school. We had stories before we had writing. If cave dweller Bob survived a raptor attack, we wanted to hear the story—not just to share in the experience as sympathetic herd-instinct creatures, but so we could learn about how to survive raptors too. (And we're still telling that story.)
From there, we found we could pass all sorts of things on to our kids, especially moral crap, fantastic tales about how things came to be, and we used to fight off raptors with our bare hands, not them fancy spear-things kids use today.
Today, we haven’t seen raptors in a while, but it’s still a good idea to be prepared, and not just for the raptorpocalypse, but for lousy bosses, unwieldy bureaucratic systems, and the ever-important how to Woo Women (or Men). Stories help us with that. Still. It’s a wonderful reason to be engaged in telling of stories.
The List Goes On
More than just the plain old how-to, both reading and writing are a way to study and understand human beings and the crazy choices we make from time to time (i.e., three times before breakfast, most days.)
But wait, there is more (or less). Some writers just want to entertain, to provide a good time. Some are unsatisfied with the written world they’ve explored, so they try to add to it.
Other writers have something to say to the world. They have a particular way of making sense of something, or a whole shitload of things, and they feel the need to attempt to add their insight to the general kaleidoscope of insights in which we live. Some see literature and modern story as a big, beautiful human-wide conversation about cultures, morals, philosophy, psychology and the human condition.
And the list goes on: self-therapy is a common one. Psychologists have been using storytelling as therapy and bridge building for decades now. Maybe more. Writing about your problems can help solve them. Sometimes, we just want to quiet the voices in our heads.
Exploration—where science studies man and his world, literature can explore the intersection of man and world in ways that may be more difficult for the sciences, though to what extent is debatable. We all study each other. Toddlers learn by watching their parents, and the habit never goes away. Writers just put their observations down on paper through fiction. Toddlers rarely do.
Or how about the exploration of ideas found in speculative fiction—the great What If?
Some see literature as a great human conversation carried on through the centuries, tackling new concerns and ideas as they arise.
O Me! O Life!
BY WALT WHITMAN
Oh me! Oh life! of the questions of these recurring,
Of the endless trains of the faithless, of cities fill’d with the foolish,
Of myself forever reproaching myself, (for who more foolish than I, and who more faithless?)
Of eyes that vainly crave the light, of the objects mean, of the struggle ever renew’d,
Of the poor results of all, of the plodding and sordid crowds I see around me,
Of the empty and useless years of the rest, with the rest me intertwined,
The question, O me! so sad, recurring—What good amid these, O me, O life?
That you are here—that life exists and identity,
That the powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse.
Why I Write
When I write, it’s all of these things, but perhaps not all at the same time. On one day, I may be just looking to tell a rollicking good yarn. The next day, I may have something to say. Another reason: habit may be driving my finger onward simply because I started something and I should probably finish it.
Some days, I just refuse to give up and writing doesn’t need a reason.
But I hope that understanding the reasons can sharpen my understanding of what I do, shape my approach to a writing, or maybe just keep my fingers moving when they’d rather just wrap around an alcoholic beverage of some sort while I watch oh-so-badly written television.
Writer of speculative fiction. Current work in progress is an untitled dark fantasy novella.