Tuesday, October 11, 2011

The book I want to write

Although I don't blog about this, I'm very aware of current events in the political and public-policy arena: these are scary, exciting, gripping times. I've carved out this blog as a place where I can talk about writing, which tends to be a stabilizing influence on me, rather than discussing the news, which acts more like caffeine on my nervous system.

But I do follow the news, and I would love to write a novel in which I make Important Political Points. Some writers are very, very good at doing this. Every time I've tried it, I end up producing the kind of didactic soap-box garbage that nobody wants to read. (Not even me.)

I address social issues in both of my novels and many of my short stories. But they're woven in naturally as part of the plot and character development. And I tend to write about only what is, and leave the reader to decide what should be. Instead of using the characters as puppets to make a point, I mention whatever we need to know about these characters' background, their living situation, because it's part of who they are and part of what motivates them. For me, the character comes first.

Sometimes I wish it were otherwise, that I could start with a Grand Idea and build a book from there. So far, I've always had to start with character.

I can only write the books that are in me. I don't mean that we can't try to stretch creatively. But wishing that I were a different writer with different stories leads nowhere but frustration. I can admire other people's work, but I can only write my own.