There are many things that are said about writers. A common one is that we get paid to lie. I suppose on some level, that’s true. As a writer, though, I never thought of it as lying. I like to think of it as taking you, the reader, along on a journey in the form of what I hope will be an awesome and memorable story.
In this guest spot on Violet’s blog I’d like to take you on another behind the scenes look at what goes in to crafting that book you treasure. You don’t know me from Adam. And I don’t speak for every writer on the planet, because we all have a different process. But come along as I take you Beyond the Book.
Let’s dive back in to that lying for a living comment, shall we? Another common thing that you hear, mostly in the form of advice for new authors, is “write what you know.”
If writing is lying for a living, then writing what you know is actually the truth in the lie.
I know quite a few authors. I’m blessed to have several amazing authors mentoring me on my writing journey and if there is a single universal truth that all authors can agree on it’s this. Somewhere in every single story is something of the author. A piece of us. Sometimes it’s a breadcrumb or two. Other times it’s the whole loaf of bread. Regardless of what shape it takes-a word that a character says that our best friend from 3rd grade said, the name of a loved one, or someone that we promised we would kill in one of our books, there is something that is real and something that is us in everything we write.
Some authors put the same kind of thing in each story, sometimes without realizing is. In preparation for this piece, I looked through my own works. The fictional pieces, not the blog posts (those are mostly true with hints of a lie or three sprinkled in, so they don’t count).
I made a discovery and I’m not really sure that I like what I found. I had the usual “this character is based on someone from my real life,” but there was something else I noticed. In most of the stuff I have written lately I have found a tendency to not let the main characters get the happy endings that everyone thought they deserved. Or rather, the obvious choice for the happily ever after for my characters never quite comes to fruition. Oh, sure, the conflict gets resolved, but there is no musical number with synchronized swimmers led by Ethel Merman in the Warner Brothers olympic swimming pool.
Clearly as an author, I’m working through some things. And I’m using these lies I’m paid to tell as my way to do it. But, like any author worth his salt, I’m taking you, the reader, along for the ride. And I hope I’m not alienating you along the way.
I often wonder, do readers also find a piece of themselves in everything they read? If you’re going through a book, do you always have that moment where you think Holy crap! They’re writing about me! How did they know that?!
If you do, then the author has done their job of connecting you to the story in some small way. If you take it personally, you’ll be more emotionally invested in finishing it.
That’s probably the reason us writers put ourselves in there, too. If there’s a piece of me in the story, I’m more likely to finish it, to see how it plays out.
It’s a weird dance we do, you the reader, us the authors. But to be honest, I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Think about that the next time you pick up one of the books that Violet has recommended. Go through it and ask yourself, “Where is the author hiding?”
You’ll find yourself reading in a whole new way.
Until the awesome Miss Patterson lets me hijack her page again, I bid you adieu and happy reading!!