Humans don't consider something to exist until it has a name. Or at least some kind of descriptor.
Words bring things to life.
Emotions, experiences and activities become concrete when they're explored and documented.
More than this: reality is essentially defined by words.
In the same way that – at the quantum level of things - perhaps even within the entire universe – matter is said not to exist until it is observed.
This is great for writers.
Invention makes us mini gods, co-creating the world around us by recording it.
For whatever reason: our own pleasure or from a need to share or communicate.
Because that's the great part: words take on much more solidity when they are shared.
Mere words become concepts, art forms, even entire other worlds.
In fiction, an author's view of reality can take on concrete substance and to some of us, actually become more real than the world around us.
Personally, I’m more attached to some fictional characters than some members of my own family.
Recently I've been working on a kids’ book - actually more of a graphic novel - where I'm having to imagine what the protagonist's home planet looks like - and base his superpowers on some sort of believable science.
Pencil drawing his home planet made me think about this issue of invention. How the imaginative process constructs something from nothing. Substance actually created from thought alone.
It happens all of the time, but we often take the process for granted. It's something we humans do.
A writer sits down, scribbles a few words that become the basis for a novel. Later that story may become a screenplay with actors and sets and props and before you know it, legions of fans believe the reality of the movie to be more compelling than their own workaday lives...
Seriously, I believe you can't underestimate what you're doing when you sit down to write.
You're not just transferring thoughts to paper, you're re-imaging the world, often replacing reality with something more powerful, meaningful and satisfying.
Well, that's the idea anyway...
Does this mean we can't write about violence, cruelty and horror? Of course not. It's just as important to document the dark side of ourselves, the savagery, the self-interest, all the bad things we do to each other. Ignoring those things won't make them go away - even if Wallace Wattles (the original inventor of "The Secret") might have disagreed!
Inhumanity is the flip side of ourselves. And just like the idea that without dark there is no light, we cannot know how to be human without an awareness of what to avoid and know what to make positive moves away from.
So, in our fiction writing it's okay to dwell on evil, misfortune and the obstacles that humans might face - but eventually there should be balance. Our stories need to resolve in such a way that hope is suggested.
Not in any crass way. Merely in an objective way.
We should be mindful that our darkest existential obsessions may be harmful to our work – perhaps as much as an over-developed sense of optimism.
Balance is the key.
You need to show your writing is real, purposeful and relevant, even important.
After all, if there's no point to what you’re doing or “being” - why are you writing?
Even dark writers like Jean Paul Sartre and Albert Camus privately reveled in the idea that their own brand of misery was being widely read!
Writing well is about cultivating a sense of responsibility. You have a duty to report the world without bias. To remain objective.
The world is a beautiful place, even though bad things happen all the time.
Readers enjoy drama and tension, but they also like to know there's hope. Even if you write for yourself and never get your work out there, you have a duty to yourself to see the upside too!
When you're reading your own work, hopefully you will see the positive in the world - and by extension, experience the humanity in yourself.
Rob Parnell's Writing Academy