The world has been a difficult place lately, you’ve noticed. And while the holiday season is traditionally a time of hope, the plagues of fire, flood, anger, hatred, divisiveness, and inequality can challenge even the perkiest of cozy-mystery protagonists and their authors and readers. So, for this month of December, I’m sharing a few quotes about the importance of our voices, our creative work, to the world.
“You are the magic for which the world hungers. … [T]he world needs your voice! Stories send ripples across continents and through cultures. Stories shape minds. And most importantly, particularly in times like these, stories change hearts. Your writings contribute to a tapestry that captures what it means to be human, at our best and at our very worst. It doesn’t matter if you write comedies or mysteries or dramas set in our own world, past or present, or ones set in alien galaxies a billion light years away. It doesn’t matter if your tales are as vast as a global war or as small as a single household. Your protagonist may be an aging matriarch or an orphaned youth. They may be timid, kind, brave or cruel (and maybe all of those and more). What matters is your devotion to getting it right, to conveying what is real in your world, aligning with your unique perspective. For when writing hits upon truth, eyes are opened. Maybe millions will eventually see your story. But even if it only reaches a dozen, you will have built a bridge where a wall once stood.
So do your duty.”
John J. Kelley, on Writer Unboxed, 10/29/18
“A story is finished when the mystery of the character has been revealed. That’s what Flannery O’Connor wrote at least, and she tends to get it right. And no mystery can be revealed if the character isn’t challenged to come to terms with what makes her alive: the desires that get her up in the morning in the first place, whether she understands them or not.”
— Michelle Hoover, in The Duplicity of A Character’s Desire, Writer Unboxed, 3/20/16
(Illustration: pastel on garnet paper, by Leslie)
“Story is all about how someone’s worldview changes. …
What this means is that you must begin with empathy for every single character you create, even characters who do things you’d never ever do. After all, what people do isn’t what gives us empathy for them. Why they do it is where empathy comes from.
In fact that’s what empathy is. To wit: empathy is the ability to feel what other people feel about a situation for the same reason they feel it. In other words, empathy is giving dignity and weight to their feelings, even if you disagree with the conclusion they’ve drawn.”
– Lisa Cron, Writer Unboxed, 12/8/16
“[T]he more we try to pretend that fear doesn’t and shouldn’t exist, the more we hurt our own chances to create whatever it is [we] dream about. … I don’t think fear is a shameful thing that we must rid ourselves of. It is a natural part of taking the risks that writers do. And the logical reaction to fear should indeed be bravery.”
– Dan Blank, Writer Unboxed, 6/27/14
“Stories are about how we deal with the unexpected. And when that happens, your protagonist would instantly and innately call up her own subjective narrative – that is, her past life experience – to figure out what the hell to do.”
– Lisa Cron, Writer Unboxed, 10/8/15
(Leslie reading The Bobbsey Twins, ca. 1968.)
“Narrative is our internal attempt to figure out how the external world works, and—most importantly—why people do the things they do, the better to not get clobbered for saying the wrong thing. Story isn’t what happens, externally; story is how we make sense of what happens, internally.”
– Lisa Cron, on Writer Unboxed, 10/8/15
“But here’s a radical thought. What if all the mess – the children, spouses, emotional demands, the dogs, the volunteer work, school visits, journalism, book reviews, the things we do to make money and to keep life ticking over for other people – what if they’re the fuel that runs the fire? What if the distractions and chaos of every day life are what give our books a heart and a pulse and an understanding that life is conflicting and complex and frustrating and full of unexpected pleasures?”
– Meg Rosoff, on Writer Unboxed, 3/19/14
“Persistent is not the sexiest word in the world, but it’s such an important one.
Or as Ole Golly puts it so well in Harriet the Spy, “Life is a struggle and a good spy gets out there and fights.””
– Egmont publisher Elizabeth Law, on writing success, on Writer Unboxed, 7/13/12
“Story isn’t hard. Just never have things go as planned.”
— John Vorhaus, on Writer Unboxed, one of the very best writing blogs. The entire post, called “What I Learned This Time,” is worthwhile – reflections by a veteran teacher and novelist on the ever-changing process.