The True Job of an Author
As I was eating lunch today, I got to discussing my writing with a few of the people I live with. We had been learning about color symbolism in my most recent Professional Writing class, and I was thinking over what colors I mentioned most. I realized that most of my characters are constantly wearing black. According to my class, black signifies death, and so marking almost all of my characters with death, I noticed that the majority of my characters are also murderers or assassins (or, if you like, bearers of death). Feeling slightly sheepish and self conscious about this, I asked, “What does it say about me if almost all of my characters are murderers?”
What I received immediately was, “It says you’re a writer.”
I had to sit there and think about that for a moment. That was one of the most beautiful responses to that question that I had ever heard. It also meant that here, as a writer, I could truly pick up that part of my identity. I can discuss how to successfully kill a character with a group and gain advice on how to do it better, without feeling as if I’m an oddity.
The writing community is one of the biggest blessings I have stumbled upon since I’ve transitioned to college. I can still be a writer anywhere else, but in people’s eyes and in others thoughts there always seems to be a sense that I’m eccentric or strange, almost scary, as if I am my characters. I can see the questions forming in their minds. Why would I ever spend hours typing up a world that exists only in my head? How did I even come up with the world? You’re in charge of the story, you can change what happens and where it goes.
The strange thing about being a writer, specifically for fantasy or fiction novels, is that you sit back and record what you see more than you truly control a plot. Of course, you can see the big picture much better than any of the characters, but the job of the author is not to come up with an amazing story. Rather, the role of the author is to record to the best of their ability the stories that have been revealed to them. We are passive observers more than we are active participators. The characters let us into the window of their life, not so that we can say, “And now you do this. I’m in control, you must obey me,” but rather to say, “Your story is valid and I will do my part as a record keeper and write it down for the world to hear.”
Only among other writers can you truly get a sense of this. Other benefits of being surrounded by writers is that it’s possible to get the types of critique you need. Readers can tell you if they liked the story, but they probably won’t be able to put their finger on why they enjoyed reading it. Writers will tell you that the diction was good, or that they love the phrase, or the characters are well rounded. They’ll ask for more description of a certain scene, or say that something is irrelevant. Without the practice of creating your own world, it is nearly impossible to explain what you need to explain and what exists as extraneous words.
If you are an aspiring writer, the first thing to do is write. Always keep writing. Even as I type this, I was returning to my dorm and decided that it would be better to sit myself down under a tree and type it out than to make it all the way to my dorm and try to write it there. Write every chance you get. If you can’t write, if for some reason the words won’t flow, read. The best writers are also avid readers. But almost equal to these things is finding a community of writers who will encourage you to continue to write and who will discuss different options with you for your characters. If nothing else, you can most truly be who you feel you are without also feeling judged for the stories in your head. No monster can’t be written, and no story is invalid. Often the hardest thing to do is find the correct perspective from which to tell the story.
Take pride in the identity of “writer,” because the sooner you accept that part of you, the sooner you will find the relief of other writers’s company.