Hmm. Second attempt at a Daily Post Writing Challenge in less than a week … What gives? This time, however, its a reflection on our journey with words – both writing and reading.
I can’t remember a time that words have not been present in my life. Its like asking someone the first time they became aware of breathing or seeing a parent. They have always been there – all present and correct. I was lucky – extremely lucky – to have been born into a family that loved reading. My dad used to write poetry (for fun, not profit – although had be gone into the greetings card industry I’m sure Hallmark would’ve loved him) and my mum always read. She didn’t write anything – to my knowledge – but her creative outlet was her garden (earlier in her life it had been art – something that she had less and less time for as her family increased). She encouraged that love of reading into all of her children, first through reading to us and then having us read to her. There was always ‘quiet time’ to read in a day, usually before bed.
As a writer, I believe whole-heartedly in the power of reading. If you cannot understand the power of the written language by reading it, how can you hope to harness that power when you write it? Its by experiencing other worlds, other cultures, other viewpoints that we come to understand our own and begin to develop how we want to express that viewpoint to other people. I also believe its essential to know how the rules of language works – how words are built into sentences, and how these are turned into paragraphs and scenes and chapters and novels – before you can twist those rules, subvert those words, misplace those sentences, and create something powerful. Or something gentle. Something that reaches somebody else on whatever level.
I was raised, I suppose, on the glories of British fiction – Colin Dann, Roald Dahl and Dick King-Smith especially – so I suppose it was no surprise that later in life I was drawn to other worlds, whether through science fiction or fantasy. I might need to qualify that somewhat. Colin Dann and Dick King-Smith may not seem like peddlers of speculative fiction, being best known for The Animals of Farthing Wood and The Sheep-pig respectively, but they introduced me to talking, sentient animals and also to the concept of wish-fulfilling magic in everyday life (The Queen’s Nose). I don’t think that we can deny the fact that Roald Dahl did not exactly write tranche de vie books for children …
This early love of fantasy was echoed – and fuelled – by my discovery of Brian Jacques’ Redwall series. Although the moralistic tales of good vs evil became overly simplified as I got older, I cannot begin to describe the hours upon hours of fun I had pretending I was a member of GUOSIM or searching out new locations for Redwall Abbey.
Alan Garner and William Corlett added further fuel with The Weirdstone of Brisingamen and The Magician’s House series. I dipped a toe into Narnia. As I got even older, the worlds spread out to include Middle-earth, the Discwold, Ellesmera and Pern.
Another series of books that I revelled in (mainly due to my love of animals) was the Willard Price authored Adventure series. A few of the books had survived my three older brothers, and fired my imagination …
I was determined to complete the series, and they became a staple of Christmas and birthdays (something that was to be repeated once I fell into the many worlds of Anne McCaffery in my mid-to-late-teens). Admittedly, by the late 80s the covers had changed from the vibrant immediacy of the 1960s watercolours to a more dreamy palette.
I will admit to having somewhat of a fanboy crush on Hal and Roger (indeed, at primary school we were once asked to write a letter to a fictional person and I chose Roger Hunt) – but what child wouldn’t want a life of daring and international adventure whilst surrounded by amazing animals? (I will admit that by the time of the later books I had grown slightly uneasy with the premise of trapping wild animals for captivity.)
But how did this early diet, this smorgasbord of authors, influence my writing? One of my very earliest stories (preserved forever in a drawer in my mother’s dresser) tells of a boy who discovers that there is a fire-breathing serpent-beast living under his street, called a Dagon (do you see what I did there?).
I have never not written. Sometimes its been expressed through journalling (lord, they’re never seeing the light of day …), and at times through poetry (let’s just say that it may not be Keats, but it is passable), but for the vast majority its been as short stories. Sometimes these are fantasy, some are science fiction, some are plain old wish-fulfilment. Some even get finished.
The thing I suffer from (oh, woe is me) is ideas. Ideas, plots, characters, scenes, twists – they all arrive and burn within me. If I ignore them for long enough they fade away into echoes. If I focus on them for too long they burn and wither under the light. There is a happy medium – of course there is – and that is to just write the damn things.
That’s all that can be asked of any writer.
I do write. I primarily write for me. I’d like it if something of mine was published and I received money for it. Writing for a living? Sounds like a dream.
It’ll happen. One day.
And every word I write, every character I create, every story I finish, is one step closer to that goal.
It has to.