A family of storytellers

I’m chugging away on the writer’s todo list, something that I enjoy, and one of the items that isn’t on that list, but probably should be, is this:

1. Study what my ancestors wrote. Study my family history.

My mother has told me about an illustrious line of storytellers whose blood runs in my veins. There’s the woman who started a newspaper and another who wrote a book of poetry in the 1890’s that is still available today. There are men who wrote, children who grew up writing, and all of this reminds me that being a writer isn’t something you necessarily choose. You get chosen by the art of writing.

The funny thing is, I have always loathed writing for its own sake. It wasn’t until recently that I learned why. If I can’t visualize an audience, I have no idea what to say. My brain is wired so that communication is a very personal thing. This is one reason why it took me a while to write a novel: I couldn’t think of a reason to do it. The breakthrough, interestingly enough, was when I learned to start with the dialog with the screenplay format. I can ‘hear’ the characters talking, and so I just transcribe that. I can see what they’re doing, and I can describe that in minimalist terms. What remains difficult is the narrative exposition portion of the novel. How can I describe a city scene if I don’t have someone right in front of me to describe it to? How can I tell someone about a flashback if I don’t know that they will find it interesting?

So what I want to do is read the writings of my ancestors. By doing this, I hope to become more connected with them. Then I can simply write to them, using them as my audience. I believe I will focus on the strong women, for whom my admiration is boundless. I can picture the woman who started the Sherman Democrat, sitting there on a chair in front of me. Of course, she will have been brought up to date on today’s mores and customs, as otherwise she would be scandalized. I will describe the settings for her, and see her nod in appreciation or shake her head in confusion (thus requiring more explanation). I will tell her what my characters are thinking, feeling, doing. Having such an imaginary audience would, I think, allow me to provide a point of view, one which I respect and one which, I hope, will prove to be intriguing and valuable for my real audience in the world today.

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