The Fiction Writer's Journey
How do we unleash the creative energy through the channels of character and story?
Posted 8/9/08 | Updated 6/7/20
What is good fiction writing technique? How do we unleash the creative energy through the channels of character and story?
Although I teach technique, my emphasis has changed and the techniques themselves have shape shifted. I know now that the journey of the writer is first and foremost a journey of self-discovery, the path on which we can find essence and hear the song of our soul. Craft and technique are necessary, but the trick is to not put the cart before the horse.
Technical expertise alone cannot release the writer's passion, and the perfectly turned phrase will please the ego, but if it doesn't translate into something meaningful for the character and story, it is so much wasted word count. Not that there's anything wrong with seeking the perfectly turned phrase. I do it myself. It's a great delight for the mind; the problem is when we confuse perfection of outer form with essence.
Both technique and passion are vital in many ways, but I've worked with writers who are technically excellent but can't plumb the depths of the human condition. Conversely, I've worked with writers who have great intuitive understanding of the task William Faulkner set forth for writers
"… the problems of the human heart in conflict with itself … alone can make good writing because only that is worth writing about, worth the sweat and the agony."
but whose lack of technique flaws their story telling, sometimes to the point where they can't finish and give up in frustration.
But revealing the problems of the human heart in conflict with itself is, for most, the more difficult of the two tasks. If we are to succeed, we must leave our conscious self and all our mind's expectations and journey into the unknown, that place of shadows, mist, fertility and birth that knows neither right or wrong, that holds a truth beyond the mind's understanding.
If we brave this journey, we will emerge from the mists and shadows into a landscape more vibrant than the one we left behind. Miraculously, we find ourselves writing the story we never thought we'd write, the story our minds could not conceive but our hearts hunger to write.
©2008 Emily Hanlon. All rights reserved.
Emily Hanlon has been a writer all her life and is the author of seven works of fiction and a book on writing and creativity. More