August 15, 2012
I have often envied the authors that I enjoy reading. They are psychic beings, omniscient of all that their characters do and feel. I was always somewhat awestruck at the writer’s ability to see so clearly into the minds of so many people at once. The logical portion of my brain would constantly remind me that it was obviously a matter of course for the writer to know the thoughts of their own creations, but that never diminished my admiration for their skills, nor for the strange power that ink seemed to grant over the people dwelling in a worLd made from wood pulp.
The magic of it comes, I think, from a good writer’s ability to not control what the character does or says. I have very often seen or heard authors make mention of struggles with their work because the characters weren’t doing what was wanted or expected of them. I once thought that such statements were simply euphemistic of writer’s block or not being sure of what they wanted to do with the story. That is not true as I have since learned. Sometimes it is necessary to stop writing so that you can take the time to get to know your characters better before being able to proceed with recording their histories.
Any story is a history, you know. No matter how swiftly a person’s pen may move, their actors have already done what is being recorded. And there again is the magic and amazement of an author’s power. The author sees at once the thoughts, plans, and actions of every piece on the chessboard. These pieces, rather than waiting their turn, will all move at once. The writer, then, is tasked not only with recording each move but also organizing their progression so that readers may follow along.
A person’s story is like their own thoughts, familiar and intimate and requiring only a few lines to convey the entirety of an epic’s happenings. Here is where the author’s omniscience becomes difficult. Seeing and knowing all that goes on in the lives and minds of those in the story leaves one free to court all of the myriad tangents, possibilities and red herrings that present themselves along the way. And which can only be perceived by someone who knows what is about to happen. This causes, a thousand times over, the need to check oneself. To prevent the insertion of a detail that would render, all too soon, clarity to the mysterious mind of a man’s opponent.
The term "composition" is a powerful one, a tool that stretches across every field of art. Used to shift and recreate pieces and even whole bodies of work in defiance of all alchemical rules. A writer wields this tool with the mastery and care of a surgeon. Too much pressure here, too little precision there and he will cripple or destroy the man he is both creating and meeting as he goes along.
Patience, precision and above all a supreme knowledge of who one’s character is, and how they think are all crucial to writing a good story. This self-knowledge is what draws me most of all to writing. I have always been the type to try and decipher the what, why, and how of both my own and others’ thoughts and actions. And a character comes from within the self. Even those based on another individual are filtered through the lens of personal perception. And thus a story is an analysis, it is a chance for the writer to examine and flesh out all of the puzzles and curiosities in their own mind.
They say that self-analysis is one of those things that a person should never do. But isn’t that the core of writing, to expose and examine the myriad facets of the mind, both desirable and ugly? This process creates a circle, turning the omniscient into the explorer, and the one who knows all must at the same time discover as much as they can to maintain that knowledge. And this must be done for every single character. Every person placed in that world is under the hand of the author, and thus the author must pour every ounce himself into each character simultaneously in order to maintain the life he has breathed into the paper. It is an exhausting, frustrating, but often satisfying task.
I am still in awe of a good writer’s psychic ability, because now I know how much is required to possess it.