Tuesday, December 28, 2010

On Being a Novelist

Pat, my decades-long friend and writing partner from my previous professional life is a natural storyteller. She tells of happenings in the lives of family and friends. While doing so, she embellishes with rich details, she paces the information flow, and she reveals the climax at just the right time.

But Pat says she can’t write fiction. She is the most vivid dreamer I know, and retells her dreams fluently. But she doesn’t see the connect to writing fiction. Of course she could write fiction. Why do some of us think we can write fiction and others do not? And what does she mean by that?

By nature, we are a story-telling creature. However, she doesn’t see that the stories she tells me are ones that others would want to read. Or she doesn’t think there’s enough detail to sustain a novel. And maybe there isn’t. Because she doesn’t like reading short stories, she would never write short stories. I write full-length and short, myself.

Maybe that is the disconnect. She doesn’t see how to stretch the dream into a feature-length film. Is that a difference between those who claim fiction author as an identity? Do we see all stories as potential novels? I know I do. Ah, but the execution!

How many novels have I started in my computer files only to abandon them because, as Gertrude Stein wrote, “There’s no there there.”? Great premise, but thin on the development. Maybe a short story, but not enough engaging stuff to sustain a novel.

See, I believe Pat could indeed write a novel. She is an avid reader who knows what makes a good story. But she has to believe she could do it, and more importantly, she would need to want to be a novelist. It’s a hard enough job when you want to and think you can.

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