The Grueling Art of Storytelling.

What is the reader thinking in the trapped pages of a forgotten volume of antiquity?
What is the reader thinking in the trapped pages of a forgotten volume of antiquity?

This summer I have committed myself to finish a historical fiction novel that has been on the back burner so long that not only has the pot burned through, it has rusted into decay. The story, however, begs to be told.

It all started in a certification course I attended on Advanced Clinical Psychological Hypnotherapy. An age regression experiment without forethought or coercion turned into a past-life regression, if you believe in such spiritual phenomena, which at the time I most certainly did not!

Now I have to accept that such hypotheses could have merit or maybe it’s a story whose time has come, and it has floated down through the centuries, landing and taking root in my mind. Whatever the case, the story and characters who have lived with me for so long are demanding to be set free.

I have lived this story a thousand times in my dreams and imagination with the sequence of events never altering. Should be easy to pen upon paper, right? Well, maybe not.

Since some actual historical facts entered my consciousness–like the name of a town that I didn’t even know existed; the ancestry of a forgotten family that lined up perfectly with the events of the story; or the older gentleman, a tour guide, in a seaport of renowned antiquity telling me the words I needed to hear to verify my research.

ancient manuscript

This, of course, has led to more research, more corresponding facts, and a whole world of possibilities. Maybe too many possibilities.

Hence, has been my dilemma for not merely years, but decades. Every time I start to put pen to paper or watch words come to life on a blank lit screen, I wonder “what if?” and “what have I left out?” I always end up going back to the proverbial drawing board.

“But not this time!” I declared. I’ll just get the story down and iron it out once it’s all on printed bond paper, doublespaced, of course. Yet every time I look into the mirror, who do I see looking back at me? Myself or my character, a former version of myself? It deepens your beliefs on spiritual matters, but it also leads to more questions with no answers or perhaps, too many answers.

What I really wanted to share in this blog today is the writer’s mind, the writing process. Those who do not write believe that being a fiction writer is such an easy task. After all, you can make up a story anyway you choose, go off on a tangent, change your mind in midstream, develop the plot as you go along. Not so, my dear friends. There has to be logical correlations, realism, and realistic emotions, dialogue and conclusions. The words do not miraculously appear on the page in the correct order with the right terminology. Writers agonize over adjectives (are there too many or not enough?); change nouns and verbs and subjects of clauses and prepositions; and the most grueling of all, “Will the readers ‘get it’?” “Will someone else understand what I’m trying to say?”

Writing is grueling and rewriting even more so, but it’s the most glorious, inspiring expression of self that can be released from your soul! I wouldn’t trade my need to write, to create, to express, for anything else in the world! Even if no one else ever reads it…

The quill and pen has come a long way, but the writer's thought processes, the human element, cannot be automated!
The quill and pen has come a long way, but the writer’s thought processes, the human element, cannot be automated!