Telling Stories

What I learned about myself, in the period between 2016 and now, is that I love to tell stories. I love making up characters, settings and situations, the more three-dimensional and true-to-life (as I imagine life), the better.

So if I have to do some research on facts to fit places and events my characters exist in, I’ll do that quite happily. I know some story writers and novelists start with the imagination and stay in it for as long as their tale lasts, that’s not the way it works best for me. It’s even more essential with historical elements in fiction, as in one thread of my novel. Real things happened to real people, and we have records, even if some of them are partial. I have to get at least these bits right. And if I need to know upon which day of the week Hogmanay 1999 fell, so be it. I will find out.

Oh, I know I’ve experimented with “magic realism”, because I’ve read and enjoyed the fictions of Gabriel Garcia Marquez and others, but the “magic” bit is always minor, always secondary. Maybe it’s just a wholly implausible thing one of my characters does or says, while the other characters react in a wholly predictable manner – I quite like that technique – like when a wife says, out of the blue, that she needs to go to South America. I may write more of those stories.

The need to have my stories rooted in some version of reality is probably why I’ve never tackled science fiction, although I confess to having read an awful lot in that genre when I was younger. I probably just lack the depth of imagination to create whole worlds where the laws of physics or the inevitabilities of biology don’t apply. I still love the stories and novels of Ray Bradbury, for instance, because he was a masterly story-teller. But I couldn’t write the kinds of stories he wrote,.

I suppose it’s having finished a novel on which much of my time and thought has been focussed for several years that’s made me think about things like this. I do love the craft of writing, as well as the art of it. I want to write better.

I don’t know in which direction my writing will take me next; maybe more stories, or maybe poetry? And if poetry, is that the same as storytelling? I think not. Stories illuminate a character’s actions and intentions in a continuous fashion. Poems are like going for a walk in the hills at night, and only switching on a torch every few hundred metres. They illuminate a thought, a vision, a seeing, something that’s instant and all-pervading. I love that. I’ll try to do more, but it’s a different form of thinking, as well as a different form of writing.

About sunnydunny

Poet, publisher, gardener
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