Tuesday, October 04, 2005

More real than real...

"The fiction writer should be concerned with only one thing: to be hotly in pursuit of the real." -Flannery O'Connor

This quote grabbed my attention today as I slog through the opening chapters of a new novel. I'm not sure why but getting started is usually the hardest part for me. I'll write a sentence or a paragraph and then stare at it a while. It takes me longer to decide where to go next. This one is multiple viewpoint so I chew on my pencil deciding who should have the next scene.

It's like pushing the car to get it started - it feels more labor intensive. Once I get things rolling I almost don't want to stop (most of the time) but right now it feels more like work.

And part of that is because of the way I approach fiction. I've never been one of those planners (which is ironic if you knew me at all). I have characters and ideas and it's not until I throw them all together on a page that the story begins to truly form. I see it as unfolding a quilt that I'm not even sure what design I will find. I love it. I love feeling led and drawn by the characters and story - and ultimately God, who is the Creator, and I simply the conduit. But in my efforts to make the story live and breathe I spend as much time thinking and pondering as I do actually writing.

This is good news for my first draft - which is more akin to a third draft because I edit as I go. Many wise teachers will say "Just write! Don't edit until you are done!" This has always been an impossible task for me because I want it to be "just so." Sticking another word or phrase in just won't do. I'll get stuck in spots as I try to come up with the perfect name for a character (and then surf all those surname and baby name sites). Never mind that I can change it later. It has to be right from the beginning.

And that is why Flannery's words resonate with me. I feel like I am in pursuit of the real story - the one that I have imagined in my head and now must form onto paper. It is the words that help the reader see the story and the words have to be the right ones to make the story real.

But it's time to keep pushing the car to get it started. Soon it will spring to life and I'll just jump into the driver's seat. More fictional thoughts tomorrow...and I'll tell you why I think fiction is "real writing".