For years now, I’ve written non-fiction. Long articles about spirituality, countless articles, lessons, books, and instructional material about the music-industry, tons of personal musings about various fields of research, and the list goes on. It wasn’t until the last couple of years that I got much more serious about writing fiction. In fact, it wasn’t until the last few months that I decided to go beyond comic books and short stories and into the realm of novels and series. And not just any fiction, but the form of storytelling that people call thrillers, or what we authors seem to like to call a journey through Hell. The following rumination will dwell mostly upon the evil and vain nature of thrillers, but I imagine that it fits well across genres of fiction.
Writing non-fiction is “telling” the story. You give facts, instructions, assignments, and information that causes someone to analytically approach their own situation. You offer solutions, insight, and generally help them problem-solve. But fiction is “showing” the story. You need to be inside the head of that person who is trying to problem-solve. You need the reader to jump when they are startled, cry when they are sad, truly feel the inner conflict that rampages through their fragile mind, singly violently across all plausible solutions in a flurry of doubt and confusion. In other words, when you write fiction, you become your characters and you expose the sacred depths of your mind and emotions to all who dare read the journey you go on.
But it’s more than that. You take on every character. How authors don’t develop severe multiple-personality disorder is beyond me. Perhaps it’s because you also play god in a way. Ultimately, it’s the author who decides what horrible things we put our characters through, and how it effects them in the end. We can drive someone to madness, to love, to anger, to triumph, to evil…it’s our choice. However, when you write, that’s not what tends to happen. Instead, you find yourself so engrossed in the characters that you really don’t know what to expect when you put them in a room together. The story takes on a life of its own, regardless of what crazy, heartbreaking plans you had for your lead character.
So, in the end, the author is just as surprised by the outcome as the reader. And if we’ve done our job well, then our readers will find themselves cheering for, crying with, afraid for, yelling at, and ultimately falling in love with their new best friend, our main character. Then, our temporary journey on sanity’s edge will have been worth it, and the temptation to risk our stability of mind will overcome us once again. I dare say that a fiction writer’s journey can be much more intense than the readers that we write for. Perhaps that isn’t a problem, per sé. But it is something intimidating and dangerous as we stare into that abyss of possibilities, choosing which journey, which life we will live for the next series of lonely moons and perilous nights.