This post originally appeared over at the now-deceased Snobbery blog. Figured I’d repost here, as folks seemed to like it, back when it went up on January 20, 2014. Continue reading
I have a guest post to share with you today! My friend Steph over at Visible and Real opened up her blog to guest posts recently, and I jumped in with one that you can read here, if you like. Of course, it’s only fair that I now get to post one of hers. I’ve known Steph for several years and have always admired her curiosity and enthusiasm in regards to, well, just about everything. Her joy is infectious. She asked me what I was looking for in a guest post, and I suggested she tell me about a book/movie/music that has influenced her. Given that we first got to know each other through discussing Stephen King’s The Dark Tower, it didn’t surprise me that she chose to write something about it and the stories we’re all entrusted to tell. I hope you find what she has to say thoughtful and interesting, too.
I think telling stories is like pushing something. Pushing against uncreation itself, maybe.
Stephen King, Song of Susannah
As M. Fenn will you tell you, I’ve been courting this one character for the past few years. I work ferociously on the project, then back off. I write write write, and then stop. Months go by and I don’t talk or write about the character or her world.
Yet, this character keeps nagging at me. I often feel guilty for not doing more writing, even as the to-do lists I have grow. She pops up as I listen to songs on random on my commute, and I think about her story. She keeps showing up when I have no pen and paper, just my mind and some time for silence.
Inevitably, when I start to think about storytelling and my characters, I think about Stephen King’s The Dark Tower series. King started publishing the first Dark Tower short stories (which later became The Gunslinger) in 1978. He completed the series in 2004. (A new novel was added as book 4.5 in 2012.) While this wasn’t the only thing he worked on, it’s amazing to me to have characters stay with you for so long and want to be acknowledged.
I sometimes wonder if that’s what’s going to happen for me – that this character will not leave me alone until I do something about it. (M. Fenn keeps telling me the only way to get rid of the character is to kill her. Not sure I’m willing to do that.)
By the way, if you’ve never read The Dark Tower series, I highly recommend it. I realize that most people think that King’s work is all horror and gore, but it’s not so! I recommend this series so highly because it has something for everyone – adventure, quest, love, a touch of horror, and really good storytelling. (I’d tell you to go read and I’ll wait for you, but it is a little bit of a commitment, but worth it. But, this to say:
Potential spoilers ahead!
If you haven’t read it and plan on it, book mark this and come back. I won’t be mad. Promise.)
In books six and seven of the series, King becomes a character in the story, clearly marking his role in its creation. There is a responsibility that he has for his characters which he shirks, for many years. It comes to a bad end.
And while I don’t think that this story is about saving the world, I also wonder about my responsibility to my characters… and what happens when I don’t take the stories I’ve been trusted with seriously. There’s a lot of responsibility in that, and sometimes, I don’t know if I have it in me. I don’t know if I can do it justice, or if I want to be trusted with that responsibility. I firmly believe in the power of storytelling, and I wonder – daily – what it means when I strip that away, when I don’t listen to and tell the stories I’ve been entrusted with. What happens to the characters, but what also happens to me? When I don’t listen to the push to create – when instead, I allow the push for uncreation to win – what happens? Do I really want to know?
Sometimes I think that I think too much about this stuff. That I just need to let it go. But other times, I think about the seriousness of storytelling, how our lives are shaped and influenced by the stories and what it means to the world. King backs me up on this… that it’s not overthinking it at all.
You can approach the act of writing with nervousness, excitement, hopefulness, or even despair – the sense that you can never completely put on the page what’s in your mind and heart. You can come to the act with your fists clenched and your eyes narrowed, ready to kick ass and take down names. You can come to it because you want a girl to marry you or because you want to change the world. Come to it any way but lightly. Let me say it again: you must not come lightly to the blank page. ~ Stephen King, On Writing
The blank page. The story. The tales we have been entrusted to tell. It doesn’t matter how I come to it – I just have to come to the act of writing it.
What story is asking you to push against uncreation in order to tell?