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Surely, it’s not just the voices in my head that won’t leave me alone that prompts me forward to fill page after page with stories. Surely, there’s something more besides my compulsion to enter the world of fantasy and danger while the space around me lies quiet and still.
Why do any of us tell stories? Why do any of us stay up late to binge on movies or to get through that one last chapter? What do we gain from that experience?
Some have speculated that stories are nothing more than entertaining distractions from the day-to-day. That writers seek only to escape the world around them, and this allows them to do just that.
Is there an element of escapism? Sure. Why not? But I think there’s something more.
Whenever I make up a story, I do escape the world around me for a little while. In fact, it can be hard to come back into reality sometimes. My fantasies are interrupted by phones on their final ring, by a little child who has somehow managed to get into my lap to place their hands on my face. (Yes, my concentration can get that deep).I know most of my earlier stories helped me escape the drudgeries of the never-ending school day.
Perhaps the better question is this then: why do we write these things down or spend hours editing these words into the best pictures possible? Because that is not pure escapism. Writing is difficult. Taking images and pictures and turning them into words is a skill that takes years to hone. Is it just to extend the fantasy?
I feel like there are easier ways of doing that.
Writing and storytelling at its heart is pure exploration. Through little avatars, some of which may be reminiscent of real-life people but rarely a complete picture, we play out scenarios and lives without having to live them ourselves. How would a traumatized teenager overcome his panic? How would a brother to a murdered sister respond to the man who caused it all? (Two different stories, so don’t be making any plot assumptions!) But my favorite topic: who is the bad guy and what makes him bad?
In Surviving Midas, it is not easy to figure out who the ‘bad guy’ is. The title itself might tell you, but there are mini-villains throughout the story. Sometimes, even the hero can be the bad guy–at least in another character’s story. But what acts are unforgivable? Is redemption truly for everyone?
Are the things that I was raised to abstain from what makes the character a villain?
Take cursing for example (one of many things I could choose from Surviving Midas). I was raised not to use curse words. Not only that, but people who used those words were uncreative and improper. Christians didn’t talk like that and they asked people around them who did to stop. So, writing a character with a filthy mouth was hard for me, and I debated for hours about leaving this element in. Perhaps, for the sake of controversy, it would be best for everyone if I took it out.
But then it became the litmus test. Could a reader see past the rough edges of my character and see them for what they truly were? Could they forgive missteps and past deeds? Can they see, at the heart of everything, not only who the villains in the story are, but who the heroes are too?
Because some people can’t, and I fear those readers most. They will stop reading because of the ‘filth.’ They will stop speaking with improper folks or bar them from their company because of their vernacular. They will, like the mini-villiains in my story, form an opinion about someone without fully getting to know them.
So, why do that to myself? Why write about these controversies? Why explore these topics and write anything at all? Won’t they just get me into trouble?
And the answer is yes, they will probably get me into trouble, especially when my current projects reach the publisher’s hands. But that is why I MUST write. Why I MUST explore. Because what I find during my times of exploration is important, and maybe, through these characters, if people can see through the fantasy and apply what they learn in real-life, we might just make a better world.
RW Hague is a registered nurse with over eight years of experience within the medical field. Using her medical expertise, she writes stories that are gritty and compelling.