Sometimes I finish reading a novel and I wonder how it was that the author was able to conceive of all the nuances that made it up. How much time did it take to complete? How many characters were created? How many scenes written, and how many discarded?

I wonder if I could ever do the same: complete the challenge I have set myself and write that novel I have floating inside my head. It seems impossible somehow. No, not impossible, because I can see how it might be done. Rather, it seems insurmountable. How do you know when it’s done? At what point can you make that final statement and be satisfied that the story has been told? Or at least this story has been told – because inevitably there is always more that can be said, the typical cry of ‘what happens next’ when you leave a character, however clear and neat, still living in the mind of a reader.

What responsibility do you have to those made up names, with facial expressions and tics stolen from the world around you, clumped together to represent a person not in existance unless you build them up in your mind from the few words on the page? How much do you owe the reader, convinced by your mirage, before you can legitmately wean them off fiction in order to lead them back into the real world. When you read a novel and the characters stay with you after you have closed that final page, where do they go from there: where can you go from there?

Should our characters be so real that they can exist without us? Should they be capable of lifting from the page and settling themselves into someone else’s mind, to continue their journey without us? Or is this the essence of writing itself: to create the start of something, and then to send it out into the world and allow it to take seed, to grow and possibly to leap from the pages we wrote and into the collective imagination of hundreds, thousands, possibly millions, who can carry the torch of this person that you created from your description on into the possibilities you would never have devised?

Should we be careful when writing, lest we create something that we can not retract? Today, suddenly, writing appears abound with complications and queries that can not be answered without raising more questions. Yet, is this not the purpose of the task itself – to raise those questions and seek out the answers and to finally leave us with one possible nugget of truth, so that we may ask the question for ourselves?

Erica Jong wrote: Everyone has a talent, what is rare is the courage to follow the talent to the dark place where it leads. And today, I think I finally understand what she means.


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