Literature: an artform

Storytelling is an artform. It is a language art once purely oral, as old as humanity but now largely written. I take great pleasure in designing, structuring, and writing stories and the characters that drive those stories. This creation is the greatest expression I as a human have. Each story I have written becomes realised and after the final word is typed or written it remains like a glass bubble in my mind, forever sealed away like a snowglobe. Although the characters fade I still see their emotions in forms of colours and scenes and environments, I see their history in the way the clouds roll across the sky or hail bounces off the pavement. Because these characters and stories mean something to me, I wonder if they may mean something to someone else.

My approach to writing a novel is not unlike an approach to painting. I sketch it out and get a pallette (usually certain vocabulary that I can scatter around in the story for a cohesive feel). A sketch can be around 7,000 – 10,000 words with the basic character arc, often nearly entirely dialogue with mood descriptions for tone. Plot at this point exists for scenes, the way Raymond Chandler saw it (“a good plot was one which made good scenes”). Then finally I get to work on colouring everything in with details and descriptions.

Stories do not have to be purely literary or purely “entertainment”. It is okay and perhaps even, subjectively, better if these lines crossed more often. I think back to Homer’s Iliad, and how the inclusion of the gods in the epic battle of Troy has contributed to that poem’s legacy. Stephen Graham Jones, in an interview with Nightmare Magazine[1], says that he “just want[s] the story to grip me, to make me want to turn the pages, to stir my imagination, to make my heart swell”. He goes on to conclude that, given a choice between genre fiction and “great writing, solid story, well told” that he would “choose the one that also has scary stuff, thank you. Because that makes my world bigger. And I want to live in a big place”.


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