I don’t care that my stories or even my characters may not seem realistic all the time. I write the kind of stories I want to read, and so should you.
How often have we heard that encouragement? “Write for yourself! You’ll find readers who enjoy your work as much as you do!” But how often are we hounded by the same gurus telling us we need realistic, heart-felt, raw characters, we need ordinary, everyday issues about life and personhood addressed and resolved, we should write about current events so readers will gravitate to our work?
I struggle with this idealism to make my characters real in a real way, and yet molding them into the heroes and heroines I need to propel the plot forward. Sometimes I write characters who are bolder than I feel. Some of them are shy and morose like me. I’ve been blamed for making shallow main characters who are only moved by supporting characters. Maybe sometimes I feel shallow and can only be moved by people around me. But on the flip side, I’ve also been accused of writing unrealistically brash characters who jump into action without thinking!
There’s no placating people. Everyone has an opinion, and someone will always tell you to do the exact opposite of what you are currently doing.
So, here’s my question: What’s your opinion?
Sometimes we have to refocus ourselves to the reason we write. I’ve been writing for so long, I don’t remember not being a writer. Before I started publishing, before I even shared my work, I literally only wrote for my sister – and maybe one or two supportive friends. I also wrote…for me. I loved my stories. When I get an idea in my head, it’s so exciting. I love the thrill of adventure! I love writing about young girls who get the chance to experience magic, who talk to fairies, who aren’t bound by family but go off willy-nilly without repercussions, scoldings, or groundings. I write to free my mind from my body, and I write to satisfy these urges to hop on a plane to who-knows-where and just escape!
In reality, I really don’t want to run away from home. Yes, I want to explore this world, but that’s not financially realistic – yet. Besides, I love my home. I love my stupid town. I love all the stupid people who populate it, the just and the unjust alike. I just want to experience adventure in a safe way.
And what better way to – safely – experience it than through a good book?
If I never publish another book, it won’t break my heart. I will continue to populate my personal bookshelves with my stories, and if that sounds narcissistic to you, then YES. YES IT IS.
Here is the only time I will tell you to fully embrace narcissism. Nobody is going to love your stories as much as you do. You will never have enough fans, enough adoring Tweets and Facebook messages to compete with the love you have for your own book. And you know why that is? Because you birthed the darn screaming, pooping, puking, colicky thing. You stayed up late and woke up early. You beat your head against walls and computer desks. You were stumped by its rebellion, but you overcame its temper tantrums. You pointed a finger at the notebook or computer screen and shouted, “You’re going to behave, grow up, and become a decent book, so help me God!”
Good parents will always tell you no one will love your child more than you will. It’s the same for books. No one will understand why you put so much patience and time into a few stupid words. Some will even tell you to trash something if it’s just being too difficult.
Well, that’s not what we do around here, is it? No, sir. You pick up that sniveling, snot-faced, puffy-eyed story, wipe away its pathetic tears, give it a few pats on the butt and tell it to go play on the swingset. This is your book. And this is my book.
So let’s write like we don’t give two fudgesicles about the world and its problems.
This has been,
Fanny T. Crispin