Recently I’ve been reading Ecclesiastes in my devotions. I’ve made no secret of the fact that I am a Christian, but for those of you wondering, yes I am one of those serious Christians who reads the bible every day and thinks that God speaks to me, it’s not just a one way conversation. However, I don’t bring up Ecclesiastes because I want to show talk about my faith, as you know, I try to do that relatively little, and I hope I do a good job of making this blog ultimately accessible for everyone. Ecclesiastes (specifically Ecclesiastes 3) has two very important lessons that writers everywhere need to take to heart. 1) Everything’s been done before… everything. Whatever your plot twist, new character, or super-cool magic/tech concept, someone, somewhere has already done it. As the book says, ‘there is nothing new under the sun’. 2) Everything has a place. The author’s point in Ecclesiastes is that God rules the world, and thus everything that happens is under his control, and he has a purpose for all of it. The good, the bad, and the ugly all have a purpose, even when we can’t understand it. However, this is also an important lesson for authors.
All of us have things that we don’t like to write. Whether we are uncomfortable with it, feel like we’re not good at it, or just feel like its unnecessary doesn’t really matter. For some of us, it’s killing characters, for others its hard things like rape or abuse, for others its romance, for others religion, etc. I’ve no doubt that something that you hate writing just popped into your head. For me its romance. It’s not something that I’ve ever had much luck with in real life, and so I always feel like I’m out of my depth when writing romantic scenes. I worry that I’m fantasizing the scene, or over-dramatizing it, and that it just won’t match up with reality.
However, as writers we are striving to create a world that mirrors reality, and that means that everything has a place. People die, people fall in love, bad things happen, and so do good things, and all of these should have a place in the story. This is because it is that very reality that makes stories powerful. What would Lord of the Rings be without the death of Boromir or the insanity of Denethor? What would Donaldson’s Thomas Covenant series be without Covenant’s leprosy and the bitterness that it brings?
While life has many pleasures and much joy, it also has a lot of pain and brokenness. Good fiction often shows us one side of that coin, whether its light and fluffy like the Spearwielder trilogy, or dark and distrubing like Lolita or Ellison’s Invisible Man. However, truly great fiction doesn’t just show us one side of life, it shows us all of life, and how all of life is interwoven. Great fiction shows us how pain and joy can intermingle and, in many ways, become one and the same. It shows us actions and consequences, both good and bad. So, this is always the challenge that we’re striving for: write something that is real. Write something that shows life in all of its horror and glory and gives meaning to both of them.
Anyway, that’s my two sense for the day.
A drink recipe for anyone out there who’s interested.
2 Parts Cranberry Liqour
2 Parts Tonic Water
1 Teaspoon of Sugar
1 Teaspoon of Lemon Juice
1 Part Absinthe
It’s surprisingly tasty