It seems I’ve finally gotten around to my promised post on “Why I Write” in response to Liv Rancourt’s guest post in December.
I should point out, though, that the focus is not so much on why I slave away for hours at the computer when I could be relaxing… it’s rather on what’s important about the art; what I’m trying to achieve when I sit down to spin stories about made-up characters in a make-believe world.
So, following Liv’s example (which was in fact inspired by a similar and most excellent post from Veronica Sicoe), here are
five four things I want my writing to accomplish.
1. I want to make readers feel
For me, emotion is at the heart of everything. When I read, I want to feel right alongside the characters — to grieve with them, love, share their wonder, fear, joy. I think that’s the sign of a truly immersive experience, which is what I want out of a novel.
So naturally I aspire to achieve this with my own writing. I would be more thrilled to have people cry or be anxious or love my main characters (warts and all) than commend my prose. There is nothing better than commencing reading a book that gives you shivers because the characters engage you immediately and you suspect you won’t be able to put it down.
2. I want to make readers yearn to travel
I often joke that I’ve been taking the Mary Stewart tour of the world — but it’s actually not so far from the truth. Although best known for her Merlin books, Mary Stewart also wrote a bunch of thrillers featuring young women who get themselves into sticky and dangerous situations in beautiful locations. She brings places to life so brilliantly, that her novels have sent me to Delphi in Greece, Hadrian’s Wall in the UK, Provence in France…
OK, so I know I’m writing fantasy in make-believe worlds, but I want to bring these worlds to life so thoroughly that readers wish they could go there. (Just as all those millions wish they could go to Pandora…) It’s another element of the immersive reading experience.
3. I want to catapult ‘everyday people’ into the heart of action
While I’m talking about Mary Stewart… her mystery-thrillers tend to be about everyday women who become embroiled in dangerous plots. This is my favourite kind of mystery — perhaps because I secretly yearn for adventure?
Similarly, the stories I find myself interested in writing are about women who are striving for something and find themselves amid events far bigger than they anticipated — whether by their own doing or otherwise. They’re not setting out to save or change the world, but somehow they seem to end up having an impact. Yet they are still personal stories — they are nowhere near epic fantasy, which focuses on large-scale events. I want to explore the human journey in the context of how individuals can have an impact.
4. I want the fantastic to illuminate real-world issues
To quote from my post on Why I Write Fantasy from back in April 2011:
The fantastic provides a canvass for the exploration of grand themes. Ultimately the imaginary world becomes the stomping ground of a cast of characters who are tested by love, betrayal, prejudice, greed, violence, guilt, hatred, rage along with everything else. Fantasy allows us to strip everything back to the bones and invent the perfect crucible into which we toss our characters to see what they’ll do.
We who write fantasy can skew the environment to suit our purposes and shine the light on those issues we want to focus on.
Since it’s late and I can’t think of a fifth point right now that wouldn’t be regurgitating Liv’s and Veronica’s points (which you should totally read if you haven’t already) I’m going to leave this at four things, instead of five.
I can sum up the whole shebang by saying I aspire to engage people’s hearts and souls with my fiction — a noble goal, hopefully someday achievable. This is what I’m working towards, in any case.
I would love to hear readers’ thoughts on this — and encourage other writers to follow suit and post your own list of what you want to achieve with your writing. Thanks for reading!