Sunday, July 25, 2010


I love the power of writing fiction.
Making up a story, then doing my darnedest to make you believe it’s true. It's a writhing, never-ending series of inventions. And isn’t invention another word for lies?
Fiction is all lies, after all.
And lying involves a lot of effort.
First, I have to choose a voice to lie, er, write in. The most intoxicating part of a writer's power is the choice of voice.
What a wonderful thing to be able to choose to be tough or timid, male or female, old or young, smart or dumb. To be an object, an insect, a mineral or an animal.
Very exciting.
Absolute power.
In animation and film production, unless I'm directing, I have no power; it’s all about following orders and directions and ghastly teamwork.
Even in screenplays I’d be restricted to writing:
Whereas, in a book, I’m gloriously free to create the house, decorate and light it as well as pick the
furniture, the weather and the season.
On the page, I get to be writer, producer, director, cinematographer and God. 
I can dictate who’s who, what’s what and who does what to whom and when.
I am the writing dictator.

I also get to cast the actors, choose their makeup, their props their age and their wardrobe.
I can dress them and undress them,
make them witty or thick, ugly or lovely.
Sometimes I torture them, sometimes I pamper them.
I decide whether my protagonist evolves in the first, third or, if I’m insane, the second person.
And whether she’s good or evil or a little of both.
I can kill her off or make her blossom, put words in her mouth, thoughts in her head, clothes on her back.
Make her purr or suffer.
I rule her world.
But, once the choice of basic ingredients has been made, the more muscular part of writerly power begins. Wrangling those choices into literary reality, making a believable world with warm, living characters is the part of writing that makes us all sweat. If the “rules” of technique are followed too closely, I can end up at best, with a clever book and stone dead characters. David Mitchell and Martin Amis write very cleverly but their characters don’t live. Not for me, anyway. On the other hand, if I flout all the rules, I risk an incoherent plot and dead characters.
A delicate balance of solid construction, believable invention, charm, humor, suspense, living breathing characters and the unexpected is what I’m after.  

Piece of cake.
And, at
some point, that hobgoblin of small minds, consistency, has to be respected. Dialogue and actions must match the choice of voice, gender, wardrobe, plot, climate etc. Making sure that the petite, magenta-haired beauty on page one doesn’t comb her blond hair and admire her long legs on page one hundred, is every bit as challenging as the power of choice.
Finally, I have the power life and death over my characters and plot.
I delete cherished bits of writing that no longer fit, remove whole episodes and people from the story if they don’t contribute anything, swap one character’s dialogue for another’s because it’s more dramatic that way.
I actually love this power and never miss the darlings I’ve murdered.
I always prefer the leaner, sleeker story.


Beth Hoffman said...

YES! Love these lines:

"To be an object, an insect, a mineral or an animal.
Very exciting.
Absolute power"

Nora Lumiere said...

Thank you, Beth.
Yes, the power at the start is exciting; the making sense of it all at the end is more of a problem.