… And Stories To Tell

Tell Me A Story

Tell Me A Story

I’ve recently rambled a bit about why I am a writer. However, that doesn’t look at the question about why I write. Or, in fact, why anyone else writes.

C. S. Lewis famously declared that as a child he was “driven to write by a severe deformity of the thumb”, which he was implying he wasn’t dextrous enough for manual labour. He probably didn’t need to claim that, though. The man clearly had a love of words and story and polished his word-smithing over many decades.

Having a story to tell is one of the best reasons to write. People like to read stories. A good story can save bad characterisation better than the other way around. And while best seller novels are usually well-written by authors who know their craft, there have been some stellar successes recently that aren’t. Rather, the basic story is captivating enough to make them sell.

Some writers say they write because they can’t imagine not writing. I know someone like that, though I’m not sure she’d put it that way. I have known to be in awe of her quantity of writing. There are numerous science-fiction writers in decades gone by who were astonishingly prolific. And, then, too, there are writers who have axes to grind: points-of-view that they want Out There For People To Read. Somehow.

I can’t say I have a simple reason to write. I’ve enjoyed world-building for many years and have a few short stories where my readers want to keep exploring the world. Most of the time, I want to keep exploring the world, too! Naturally, it’s all very well writing a dry description about mythical nations and invented cities (I have done this numerous times), but how does it actually work? To do that generally means writing a story. I’ve had worlds be re-shaped by a story, and that takes the world-building in a new and exciting direction for me.

Character design is another reason to write. I’ve noticed in the last few months that the main protagonist in my stories tends to resemble me. I guess this is typical of inexperienced story-tellers, but now I’ve seen it, I can play with it. The obvious one is to let them do something I couldn’t, and then see what happens. But I can also explore different personality traits and situations I never could, and sometimes these can also help me work through my own problems. This is not new: Anne McCaffrey famously wrote the original “Ship Who Sings” story as a way of getting over the death of her father. Taking a character through a journey of loss and recovery can be incredibly cathartic.

I do regret not trying harder to write when I was younger. I guess my family didn’t know how to encourage me when I was in school, and clearly neither did my teachers. This is why I don’t yet have some of the more writerly habits. And I can’t ignore the desire to be paid for my work. I admit to being in awe of authors like Larry Niven who make a living out of writing, and have always wished to do that.

So now you have some idea of why I write. Why do you write?

2 Comments

Filed under storytelling, writing

2 responses to “… And Stories To Tell

  1. Interesting question, isn’t it? Why do writers write? I write because I think I have something to say and I am better at writing than speaking. I write because I enjoy building characters who I come to like more than most people and who keep me company in my inner life. I write because I occasionally earn money from doing it and I strive to earn more. But mainly – rather like your friend I imagine – I am not really capable of NOT writing for any length of time.

  2. Pingback: A World Out of Time by Larry Niven « Wandering Mirages

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