Monday, May 08, 2006

Ache

I'm totally down with the flu - at that stage where you're fidgitty and lying in bed only makes you feel worse. Started organising my files on my computer, and found this, something I had written many years ago, for a VISION newsletter. It only caught my eye because the file name was ache. Which makes sense when you have the flu. It's a little clumsily written, and a tad breathless (which is a valid criticism of a lot of what I write) but...


Ache.

Most stories, for me at any rate, start off not so much as an idea, but as a kind of ache. A longing around which the story wraps itself. Writing is a bittersweet thing, an anxious act of creation that I both love and dread. Who can deny the heady delight of phrases flowing swift and potent from the fingers, or the disgust of discovering a poorly structured sentence or an ill-used word?

SF writing engages me because of its density of meanings and language; its creation of worlds and colours and feelings. When I write I ache, I yearn for words of power and images and ideas and hints of something greater; that this story, these words, are webbed with a thousand other tales and histories .

For me as a writer, I don't think of plot, I don't think of character, but rather I seek to express that longing, to let the chorus in my skull sing onto the page - however out of tune that may be. That is the art. Of course the craft must raise its head, the cruel and loving compromise. An artist must ever be a craftsperson if they want to communicate with others - and more so if they ever want to sell!

That ache must, at last submit itself to order, it must find its engine plot, and its beginning-middle-end, and become a coherent thing. That is another magical aspect of writing. The potential of that ache, that becomes story, to be read by others, to evoke in an audience a sense of that initial longing. The stories that have captivated me as a reader have always been invested with feeling.

Perhaps I am drawn to pain in my fiction. But life is ache, and fiction is for me, as a writer, a reflection of this. When I feel that ache, that subtle but so very powerful seed, I know that I am on the path to an interesting if not good story. No work I have ever finished has begun without it.

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