“In all that I see or seem-Am I the dreamer or just the dream?” pondered Edgar Allan Poe. His quote resides on a canvas on my office wall. It serves to remind me that the worthwhile life is a journey for answers. The human experience is one of curiosity, of questions asked and answers sought. It is not an accident that quest and question share similar origin and definition. I think that often the answers are far less important than the quest to find them. Whether we rely on faith or fate, our consideration of the reasons enriches the value of the journey.
More than any other aspect, it is the questions that drive me to writing. My A to Z challenge is just one of those journey’s of curiosity. Twenty-six attempts to ponder an aspect of the writing experience, from A to Z, and to find answers to the things that spark my passion for the written word. But for the bigger questions, I have my novels and the novels of other writer’s.
I believe at the heart of the best stories are those questions that we cannot answer to complete satisfaction. Those big and grand things whose potential answers help to define the human creature and his or her purpose. The ones that may reveal if we are, in fact, the “dreamer” or the “dream.” Love, Decisions, Loyalty, Empathy, Sympathy, Reality, Perception, Liberty, Freedom, Faith, Fate, Courage and Fear—the things that potentially define the nature of Man’s soul. A curiosity to know “what flowers bloom in the dark caverns of Man’s soul?” Are they blooms of light or of blackness?
Such things are the material of classics. It matters not if the examination occurs in Faulkner’s funeral progression, or if Robert Jordan contemplates love versus responsibility at a bridge in Hemingway’s For Whom The Bell Tolls, or if Scout considers the nature of society in a courthouse, or if Robert Conrad takes us through the jungle and into the Heart of Darkness. Beneath the text, the details, and the dialogue is the question and the quest for an answer.
Novel writing for me begins with the simplest and yet most broad of all the scientists’ and philosophers’ questions—what if? For the writer, every word and each sentence that follows is an answer that reveals the next question until he reaches the final, but unspoken question that remains beyond “The End”… “but what if instead?”
As writers we sort and resort these questions. We consider them through different characters and different landscapes. A series of trial and error to see which truths stand up and which dissolve under our examination. For the writer there are far fewer answers than there are inquires. But it is in the questions that we find the purpose of our efforts.
Categories: A to Z Blog Challenge