On the Writing of Fiction and Why I Do It
Every fiction writer will have a reason for choosing fiction. You hear and read a lot of them that sound clever and dramatic on the surface of things. Most of them boil down to one of (or some combination of):
- I have to.
- I need to.
- The voices in my head make me.
I understand all of those, and I’ve felt them all on occasion, but I’m also a huge believer in free will and anything that doesn’t consider it leaves out part of the equation as far as I’m concerned.
The summer I was eight, my uncle pressed a copy of the Lord of the Rings into my hands to keep me busy. Seems a little excessive, doesn’t it? “Here kid, have a thousand pages of fantasy fiction. That ought to keep you quiet for a while.” Not nearly as long as he hoped, I think. I’d already read Fellowship at that point, so got through it fairly quickly and tore into Towers by the next day.
And that wasn’t even the beginning. Dad had plenty of SF and Fantasy lying around when I was a kid in the 70s and I read a lot of classic and not so classic genre fiction. My school library had more and the local library beat both together. I discovered McCaffrey early, and Silverberg, and Niven, Le Guin, Pohl, Herbert, Smith, Heinlein, Asimov, Clarke, and dozens of others.
The 70s moved into the 80s and a couple of years later I became a teenager and my reading expanded deeper into the genres. Fantasy came into its own and SF got broader than ever before. Bova, and Feist, and Eddings, Salvatore,Bradley,Jordan, Brooks, Anthony, Pratchett, Alexander, and on and on and on.
The 80s became the 90s and I grew older and kept reading. By the time we rolled the millennium, I had a wife, a son, and a daughter on the way. Less time for reading, but I never let it go. My horizons got broader, but I got pickier at the same time, less forgiving of some things and more understanding of others. My youngest daughter arrived somewhere in there, too.
These days I read less than I did for myself before the whole family thing happened, and more non-fiction than ever before. It’s a strange, winding road, but along the way I found a lot of things that had been lost, like Dr. Suess, and picked up things I never would have otherwise, like Harry Potter. There’s no way I can possibly come up with a guess at how many hours of joy and pleasure reading, and particularly reading Science Fiction and Fantasy, has given me.
And that’s why I write.
Sure, it might satisfy some psychological need I have and maybe the voices in my head like to be let out of my imagination to play through words across the screen, but that’s not why I write.
I write because that’s what I feel it takes for me to pay back all the writers who have gone before me. If someone reads one of my stories and enjoys it, then I’m thrilled to have added a little joy in reading to someone else’s life, and the hours of work that went into it were more than worthwhile.
Read on and be well.
(Cross-posted from my new website.)