Four things I want my writing to accomplish

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!

 

9 comments

  1. I love how you took what for me was an intellectual exercise and made it about the heart. Bravo!
    (Oh, and thanks for the mention…)

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    1. Oh, did I? Funny. I daresay that was because I tried to find an individual and unique angle rather than copying yours and Veronica’s fabulous answers. 😉
      But I think for me reading IS about the heart more so than the head… So I guess it fits.

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  2. Emotions, yes, I agree that is the heart of a story. I think our focus for writing is much the same. What I hadn’t thought about, though, is your comment about writing fantasy to deal with real world issues-it seems antithetical, but it isn’t really. Glad you shared this.

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    1. Yes, I think the fantasy genre is often misunderstood by those unfamiliar with its possibilities — the post I linked to (from April 2011) has a lot of discussion on this and was in response to one of Rachelle Gardner’s reader polls. There’s some good stuff in there and I’ve been considering dusting it off and reposting actually.

      I’m glad I reached you with my thoughts, Cora!

      Like

  3. I love all of your points, especially the one about inspiring readers to yearn to travel. It is such a mind-expanding experience to get out of one’s small circle and see other parts of the world. What a wonderful gift to give a reader.

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    1. Len, one of the things I’m loving about D&D is the way I feel like I’m living out a fantasy novel. Sure, the storylines are considerably less subtle, but our group sits around for hours and debates courses of action (much to the chagrin of our DM!). I saw right away why so many RPG players metamorphose into fantasy authors — the tempatation to create a story founded on a particular campaign must be really compelling, particularly if a lot of work has gone into the world building.

      As for whether it can help with my writing — I’m not sure at this stage. I’m still very much a beginner RPG player and the game seems a lot less nuanced than the type of ficiton I’m writing — nor am I controlling the game as DM. However, it may give me some conflict ideas, don’t know! At this stage I can see it may give me character ideas — I recently suffered the death of a character I was rather fond of and time may see her incorporated into some of my fiction. 🙂

      Thanks for coming back!

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