“Everyone is a moon and has a dark side which he never shows to anybody.”
Mark Twain has touched on the very essence of what it is to be human. Yes, we do all have a ‘dark side’ – that part of our nature that rarely, if ever, sees the light of day. We may well be acutely aware of this flaw but most of us are clever actors able to hide this face from public view. Jesus, in his criticism of the religious leaders of his day, called them hypocrites because they appeared as white-washed tombs which look okay on outside, but are actually full of dead men’s bones on the inside.
As writers we can tap into this deep well of darkness. We can let the protagonist have a flaw which other characters know nothing about. This dark side can be either a motivator stirring his resolve, or it can be a burden, an obstacle preventing success.
This character flaw can be shown in various ways: through actions, through internal thoughts, through uncharacteristic responses to other characters, through subtle hints which other characters do not understand and so on.
Possibly one of the best known example is that of Luke Skywalker in the Star Wars stories. All the way through the last three movies he battles his fear. On many occasions he is urged to give in to the dark side, to allow his fears to breed hatred.
It is certainly worth digging deep within this rich vein of conflict within the nature of your main character, exploring it and then exploiting it for all its worth.
Today’s quote about writing:
“All the things we achieve are things we have first imagined and then made happen.”
David Malouf, Australian writer
Imagination is a powerful, essential, elemental, almost organic tool of the writer. It is the driving force behind all writers, especially writers of fiction. Without our imagination our stories cannot take shape, the characters cannot come to life and the plot limps along until either the reader or the writer give it up as a hopeless cause.
But when the writer calls upon an active imagination, the story can soar to wonderful heights, the characters can develop vibrant, energetic lives and the plot grabs the attention of the writer demanding to be written. And when this happens the readers are carried along in that imaginary world of delights and the book cannot be put down. Hopefully it also sells many copies via word of mouth too.
But I wonder if David Malouf was actually thinking along these lines?
Was he instead thinking about dreams and goal setting? It doesn’t really matter for it doesn’t negate what I’ve already written. Dreaming big dreams and setting goals with our writing (and all other areas of life) can result in amazing outcomes. Without dreams and goals we tend to drift through life aimlessly.
Dream big – you might just surprise yourself.
I’ll give you a few examples:
- Imagine holding your first novel in your hands. Feel it, look at it, smell it.
- Dream about the day you sign a three book contract – and the satisfied feeling it engenders.
- Visualise walking across the stage to receive that literary prize.
- Plan and rehearse what you are going to say and do when you launch your first book.
On the last item my wife and I attended a friend’s book launch last year. My wife took detailed notes on what to do and how to run a launch – and she keeps reminding me of this. It spurs me on to get that manuscript finished and off to a publisher.
Make it happen.
“I have tried simply to write the best I can; sometimes I have good luck and write better than I can.” Ernest Hemingway.
I guess countless writers would like to write as well as Hemingway. Many have tried, few have succeeded.
In any endeavour this is an excellent maxim on which to base one’s activities. Always strive to do your best, sometimes you will surprise even yourself.
I guess one could also say that sometimes we get lucky and write really well. I would contend, however, that if we continue to strive to be better writers, and constantly and consistently persist at the craft, that we will improve. I know I have and my readers tell me so. My most demanding reader and critic is my wife; she tells me that I’ve improved out of sight in the last few years. That is encouraging, and it helps me to keep going – and keep improving.
“I would love to write a book, but unfortunately, I don’t have a pen.” (Unknown source – it came to me from a Facebook friend)
We might laugh at a saying like this, but for some people, any simple excuse is enough to stop them from writing. Some common excuses are:
- I don’t have enough time.
- The timing is wrong – I’ll wait until I retire.
- I don’t have a good computer.
- I don’t know what to write about.
- I’m too busy.
- I’m too tired after a day at work.
- I have nowhere where I can write.
- I don’t have a pen.
You get the drift?
Excuses. Excuses. Excuses.
If you want to write a book, you actually have to start putting words down on paper – or at least in the hard-drive of your computer. There is no other way. Books will not write themselves. (Someone reading this in my archives in 50 years time might be able to argue that point, but I won’t be around to defend myself.)
So you want to write a book?
Good. Now stop reading this – and start writing (but don’t forget to come back here tomorrow; I’ll be waiting for you).
- Writing a novel – articles outlining how I went about writing a novel.
- A writer’s virtues: patience and persistence