I’ve always stood in awe of story tellers, the way they can spin a yarn, constructing plots interwoven with sub-plots, creating characters, eventually tying up all those loose ends created by increasingly convoluted conflicts into a perfectly credible and believable story. I wonder, how do they do that?
I mean, do they know right at the get go that the butler did it? Do they use this foreknowledge to build the events leading up to this inevitable conclusion, staying one step ahead of the game? Or does it just mysteriously unfold somehow along the way? Do they simply put pen to paper, creating characters from snippets of ideas snagged here and there, and once animated by the writers imagination do these fictional characters take on a life of their own? Does the role of the author become more that of reporter than creator as they uncover the story along the way? Somewhat like an Eskimo carver who looks for a stone with a walrus in it and then simply cuts away the non-walrus bits. Surely some literary sleight-of-hand must lie at the heart of the matter?
What about science-fiction or fantasy writers? For everyday novels, your detective mysteries, crime fictions, love stories, adventure stories and such, there are a host of examples, personal experiences, frames of reference and tangible contexts to draw from. But coming up with a credible tale of a three-headed-six-limbed-super intelligent-insectivorous-creature who finds and befriends a small boy child lost on the planet Xarg, raises him in “the way of the swarm,” and then together they roam the galaxy defeating the evil emperor, saving us all from inevitable slavery, all fleshed out in minute descriptive detail; now where does that stuff come from?
The champions of the skinny-branch genre without a doubt are the horror fiction writers, among whom are the likes of Mr. King and Mr. Koontz and their many peers. They’re the masters of twisted tales, but at what price? I wouldn’t be able to sleep at night! I’m not sure which would be more frightening, the close proximity of the atrocious tales I was spinning or that it was my psyche that came up with them in the first place!
Their family and friends must hold their collective breaths every time a master of horror picks up a sharp knife to carve the Sunday roast.
Of course this begs the question whether I might be able to fit into this guild of genius?
What kind of writer would I like to be, might be an easier question to answer.
I would like to create vignettes for my readers through which they can peer into the world around us. Its quirks, hopes and dreams, wins and losses. The profound, the absurd, the silly, fancy and plain. Who knows what sights we may see, what victories and failures we may witness, or laughter and tears we may share along the way?
So let’s you and I put on our sensible shoes, grab our overcoats and go for a walk in the forest and see where it takes us.
Xross that Line
Illustration: S. Grindlay