Saturday, February 01, 2014

Double Blind

“Freedom of speech is not just the freedom of writers to write. It’s also the freedom of readers to read.”
                        ~ Salman Rushdie

Fortunate is the writer who has managed to wipe clean the screen of their imagination, so that when they sit down to work, they are guided only by insight & impulse. Conversely, the reader who opens each new book in the spirit of trust & patience is equally being guided by the same good faith, in the hope for all that becomes possible when two imaginations intertwine.

How direct of an impact does the expectation of a reader have upon the direction of a writer’s imagination? Is it possible to create an original manuscript with no sensitivity for what those who intend to read the book expect from the characters we introduce them to? How difficult it can be to remain loyal to the direction the imagination sends the pen, when there is competition from the expectation of a readership who crave emotional satisfactions.

In those instances, when the narrative is taken into dark corners & all of the freedom & graceful individuality we have bestown our characters is challenged in the headwaters of conflict, we are challenging our reader, as well. How do we manage to engineer conflict so that it not only meets the nuances of an unfolding storyline but also the values of those who invest their time in experiencing the work we have laboured to share?

This is an intimate balance—veering too far-off in either direction can result in irrelevance or alienation. Not traveling far enough can diminish that sacred connection between author & reader. It all traces back to that quiet trust the reader has expressed in choosing this particular novel, amongst the myriad of others. The hope that by sharing the experience of reading our work, we might reveal to them something which expands upon what-is-already-known; it is their investment in our vision which enables this transference.

{Artwork by Lilliana Pereira}


Saturday, January 25, 2014

Vulnerabilities of Invention — Writer as Snitch

Truth comes with a price. This can be extracted on a personal level, where the speaker is put into a position whereby they must face consequences for detailing this version of how they see things. Other times the cost for frank disclosure is social. When a writer chooses to reveal details & secrets of a specific elite circle, they will often face ostracization & renunciation. In either instance, the writer who chooses to speak plainly & freely must be driven by a compulsion which discounts consequence —they simply must set the record straight.

One option for an intelligent & thoughtful artist is to detail their version of intellectual reality clothed in allegory. Behind a veneer of concocted circumstance, one story tells another in all that it refers to. Perhaps it is a sense of safety & optimism the writer feels in keeping actual intention buried beneath a superficial refraction?Might this enable to process?

It is no small feat to secure a critical viewpoint, then demand imagination graft these impressions onto something which alludes & suggests. The imperative for truth runs great risk in being over-shadowed by details of allegory & when this happens, the message is either buried beneath the fallacious or warped in a faulty translation of intended interpretation; the impact of message is lost in an exchange of competing paradigms.

Authority which wishes to suppress, which wishes to contain the inner workings of a political landscape has reason to fear the writer who quests to reveal impressions of suppressed fact. It is the result of a particular strain of courage that these truths are shared to a larger public & the expectation for consequence following unwanted disclosure is logical.

Is imagination impacted by the threat from prevailing authority when it begins to assemble the vehicle for a story which contains shaming secrets & potential disgrace? Either curtailed or ennobled: how deeply can the writer’s imagination be influenced by what might happen should certain facts be exposed?

Generating beneath a threat of isolation, can the imagination reasonably be expected to not only remain lucid in disclosing a version of truth, but manage to accomplish this in a progressive manner? What of the writer's ego? Is this inflated by purpose? A self-evident interpretation has no other fate than to enter into the public light. Fear is apt to make a writer’s words shrill & brisk. Is it possible to anticipate an ennobling of imagination, provided the motivating force behind disclosure is one of hopeful progression?

There is a common beauty in the language of shared vision—of a world that is framed by inclusive insight, guided by a reasonable desire to enhance. The imagination responsive to a writer’s version of fact, guided by justice & a glory of altruism, incubates the potential to create a shift, whether personal or social. Can there be any greater reward for risking the voice of delicate truth?

{Artwork by Tomasz Alen Kopera}


Saturday, January 18, 2014

The Elegance of Compassion

As writers trying our utmost to master technical aspects of a craft—those skills of endurance & refinement which lead to the steady progression of a coherent manuscript—when dusting off the proverbial writer's toolbox, we often focus on the logical & linear. As primary vehicle, it becomes tempting to concentrate solely upon scenes of unfolding narrative & how characters move through time & space—the mechanical units of writing. If the through-line for action is clear, we reason, the reader will stay connected.

Yet in the exchange of storytelling, it is the empathic connection our readers feel towards the characters depicted which dictates the opportunity for overall success in our effort. It is through the reader's imagination that challenges & conflicts are played-out; it is through shared understanding we resolve dilemmas together.

Rising above all other modes of impact we hope to affect upon a reader, the opportunity for healing is perhaps the most beautiful. The chance to re-tell stories of humiliation & gross injustice is a fertile place for the ardent writer to deepen a possibility for redemption or vindication. Life is swift & occasionally brutal, yet in literature we can re-visit what has been painful & through careful re-enactment of the variables which intersected to battle for dominance & the balance of authority, we are able to expand impetus in a manner which points to a broader hope of understanding. In this landscape, we are afforded the opportunity to enrich insight into both the dark & redemptive aspects of the human spirit.

In the re-telling of painful experience, whether autobiographical of perhaps what has been witnessed, a writer is offered an opportunity of protecting the currents of empathic understanding which detail how such tyranny came into manifestation. It is only when both protagonist & that dialectical antagonist have been carefully drawn to provide insight into how or perhaps more importantly why people behave as they do.

Trauma sears pain onto the heart; it is apt to cause loops of re-enactment in the mind. The writer who chooses to lovingly expand upon complex & conflicted motivation attempts to guide a reader through land mines of shame & regret. Frank exposition, guided by a writer’s antennae tuned towards redemption, offers a unique & intimate form of encouragement. The imagination coached to conceive the grace of forgiveness is more apt to permit grievance & rage an opportunity to dissolve under the dawning light of a heart measuring re-consideration.

{Painting by Max Ernst}

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Fluidity of Genre

Once an aspiring writer settles upon the final genre for a nascent story, potentiality the story might manifest within becomes more defined. If it is a mystery that is being assembled, there must be motivation & suspicions woven into the body. In order to accomplish this expansion effectively & with any hope of engaging a bright reader, it is important to understand the specifications of genre. Through understanding central characteristics which define any given literary category, the writer is able to cast imagination into a framework, if only to later re-define what has conventionally pertained to that classification.

Research is an individual choice. Some writers will read exhaustive amounts to familiarize themselves with countless examples of what they are endeavouring to create; they scope what has been defined by other successful writers. Conversely, some writers will work from the barest understanding, trusting the purity of the vacuum to guide all progress. The classical position favours the former approach, for it is by creative saturation that the original emerges, yet from either side of the dialectic, there must be a vague familiarity of themes & characteristic which define the chosen environment.

Personally, but also for the purpose of exploration, I favour the classical position. It not only accords respect to the body of work which combines to define a given genre of literature, it offers a myriad of potential riffs on what has already been so artfully established. We will all have our own preference.

There is a certain amount of detective work involved when establishing the approach to genre & the imagination is offered a host of potential varieties when designing subjective application. The genesis for any idea is often sudden & gestation for this original kernel of inspiration may either be brief or prolonged through an extended period of development. Within this incubation period, when the framework for a story is being assembled, possibility is the predominant variable. It is through the extension of potentiality that a story acquires the complexity of layers. Original inspiration rarely remains pristine — it is cross-sectioned, grafted & woven into fresh inspiration. This is the imagination spinning the intricacies of nuance & landscape.

Rhythm must be determined through influence. Arguably, the greater a familiarity with available options for capturing the essence genre, the greater the chance for compelling complexity. The world in which our story is to occur needs to be clear in the writer’s mind & as landscape unfolds, clues pertaining to fresh direction begin to emerge. Writing here, within the post-modern, digital environment often permits creative synthesis of various genres — hybrid worlds containing elements from seemingly incongruous forms are not uncommon to discover.

In creating fresh interpretation of well-known & frequently explored landscapes, the imagination is free to incorporate as it needs, so long as the story remains lucid & the generalized understanding of tone & theme sustain. There is something remarkable, something beautiful & daring in the intersection of pronounced influence. The writer who weaves & wraps a fresh approach around their unfolding work is creating from a potent position of entropic mystery.

The greater the assimilation of each influence into the cognitive readability of a manuscript, the greater the chance of the writer assisting in the expansion of the genre they have chosen to work within. It is the pioneering spirit, spurred by a desire to refine the conventional.

{Artwork by Rene Magritte}

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Combing the Tangles of Legacy

The act of writing, specifically the linear, logical sequence of flowing written words, this trail of language has within its very nature the potential to be a clarifying agent. Each fictionalized individual comes down through the incorporation of a myriad of imaginary bloodlines, & within this genetic network, history & characteristic is sealed.

The writers who find within their sphere of motivation the courage to explore, then expand those constricted channels of influence, has the demanding task of both preservation & re-interpretation; the generate material that is beholden to both sacred lore and idealistic optimism.

History, whether apprehended through the libraries of vast & meticulous research or distilled through the warps & wefts of oral tradition, contains all that can be preserved. The writer striving to capture & reflect what their literary mind has deemed worthy of preservation, of amplified communication, this intention has an obligation to clarify archived events through an interpretative filter which bridges a unique co-relation to imagination.

Research & hearsay do not necessarily contain within their unique perimeters the genesis of motivation. It is tasked to the earnest writer to respectfully penetrate root causes of action, to then shape both legacy & collective understanding. Without this sympathetic access, the reader is unable to comprehend, from the emotional position, why they should incorporate a fresh interpretation of what has already transpired; the status quo sustains in the absence of clear motive.

History contains any number of individual strands of remembrance; it forms the collective body through the preservation & interpretation of those unique threads. Generating from some incendiary event, lines of questioning & of the details best extrapolating upon what has been revealed to be pertinent at that moment in time, to the point of causality, these tracks of words serve as available evidence to what actually happened. But is this reliable history? Can the imagination be trusted to assist in clarifying what is of relevance or what might only prove to be a collection of inferior incidents of incomplete motivations? How can the writer looking to understand, then re-interpret history, trust the abstract mechanics of imagination?

Consider: Oceans of courageous blood spilled upon battlefields; sacrifice shattered beneath the weight of defeat. The writer who aims to make history relatable to a contemporary reader must proceed gently & with cautious patience. These threads of recorded experience intersect at any point & with respectful attention to the burden of sympathy, these stories can be re-claimed for fresh interpretation.

Can we ever truly comprehend the conditions in which another group of people has lived? Perhaps this is impossible to determine but we can for certain be shown circumstance, environment & specific instance to glean the jist of what came before us. Through these components, the writer & reader connect within a frame work of shared imagination & within this space, exchange a common understanding. History & the records which define its perimeters, emerges to lend fresh insight into the circumstances which evolved to determine social legacy; all that has been recorded weaves the tapestry of remembrance.

{Artwork by Howard Hodgkin}

Saturday, November 23, 2013


To write with grace & accomplishment, an aspiring artist must dedicate the lens of imagination into serving as a discerning filter. Refinement of language takes great priority—the ideal word must be selected above any other; essential for communicating the nuances of symbol we strive to convey. Amplifying symbolic content involves both intuitive patience & gentle discipline. Most writers, no matter where they lie upon the arc of personal development, work hard to choreograph resonant & evocative images.

Literary time collects in layers; our characters are superimposed within these folds. In order to successfully graft a realistic, that is to say relatable, cast of characters, we must be prepared to not only understand the matrix in which we desire to place them, but also be prepared to establish an environment which is capable of sustaining this transplant. The small details matter & whether unconsciously or by deliberate act of will, we sift through imaginary worlds to select what best juxtaposes.

Yet can we wisely rely upon the arbitrary function of imagination to craft various aspects required for a credible landscape of fiction? In order to move past the fluid lyricism of an undulating imagination, writers must freeze a particular aspect, then sculpt glorious details from that model into language. Like an artist drawing the human form, we require an example to assist imagination in filling in nuance.

For writers attempting to sculpt these elegant lines of graceful, lyrical fiction,  identification of a central image serves to anchor the surrounding reality. Images which surface, then graduate to serve as these central pivots—the cohesion to which the conscious mind begins to explore beyond the hard-won details serving as access points for a reader’s imagination. This threshold is challenging to determine. Whether the writer chooses to interpret early imagery through a critical filter is certainly a matter of individual choice but in either option, the writer in possession of powerful symbolic imagery is a writer who now has something tangible to work from. With discipline & artful composition, this vocabulary leads into the next indelible scene; narrative texture begins to collect & sustain.

And so it goes—the story weaves outward & all the many hypothetical instances we apply to determine direction or relevance, find answers within this emerging world. Some of the original hunches were in check with what continues to emerge; some prove to be incongruous. This mysterious puzzle slowly reveals images & icons which collect thematically to broaden the scope of the narrative into the symbolic.

Can it be that Dr. Jung was correct when he reported his observations that within all of us, buried in the chaos of the unresolved Unconscious mind, there exists access to the archetypal? It is possible to freeze upon one of the pivotal images & begin to research historical & mythological significance of that unit. Through closer analysis, we might discover larger, more universal relevance to the work we are creating.

This type of scholarly exploration can be of use in determining continued direction. Should it? Once the activated imagination begins to sift through the archetypal, perhaps it is better to let this excavation continue intuitively, unfettered by the anxieties of a conscious mind? In taking this leap of faith, trusting the instincts we have cultivated as productive writers will not only satisfy the demands of a linear narrative, but also lead to the symbols which provide books the perspective & nuance of great writing.

Is it best to surrender imagination unlimited access? In accepting the inevitability of an overall coherence, we not only endeavour to tell a story with sophistication but we may also take steps toward greater personal awareness. In this way, our writing begins to shape a unique realism of what is possible through the mechanics of an illuminated creative mind.

{Images by Bauhaus}


Saturday, November 16, 2013

Refractions of Persona

A course of potential direction for the sincere writer of fiction is formed through a vast landscape. The activated imagination is untethered in the initial phase of contemplation & the potentiality which lies dormant is a potent & motivating force. This is an entropic world, where much of what we yearn to reveal lies buried or merely suggested. Eventually choices will have to be made to compel the story forward but languishing in all that could happen serves to motivate & suggest.

For the writer of fiction who also strives to tell some truth, the possibilities are slightly less overwhelming. What writer has not declared, at some point in the initial incubation period, that events lived within the wingspan of their own unique experience would not be ideal content for a work of fiction? We are tempted by the transcendental moments experienced within our own lives & often, this becomes a starting point for a created work.

Literary truth distills from the imagination, now focused to work between the mysterious dialectic that pits experience against fantasy. What is conducted between this polarity now serves as a through-line to the emerging narrative. We use the craftsy filter of memory—refracted back across the conscious mind, where it is positioned as action—this early movement in the story now serves to establish the world where our fiction will live. Framed by the editorial choice to relay events close as possible to experiential accuracy, we record what will hopefully engage a reader.

Yet this autobiographical landscape is limited to what will best translate into lucid prose. Sometimes, what actually happened is dull or repetitive—it will not make for engaging writing & risks becoming bogged down in personal reflection. To circumvent the trite or listless, a persona begins to emerge— a unique creation born of experience, yet filtered through an educated imagination to serve as a reliable & consistent vehicle for a story. The persona is evocative of the actual but has been customized to offer both variety & diversity not present in the memories which generated it.

Is this fresh hybrid persona the best a sincere writer can hope for when chartering autobiographical waters? The desire to mine personal experience has compelled the creation of this literary persona, born of a meeting between the actual within the imagined, yet how can we be certain how much to reveal? Can we continue to write, confident that what we have experienced ourselves is worthy of an attentive reader? Is there a chance we are being seduced by presumed glories from an untold autobiography?

Writing based upon actual experience supports a unique dynamic — the writer is being witnessed through the act of sharing their story. An inflation of the writer’s sense of self occurs & like any skilled storyteller, an engaged audience inspires & helps to direct the pace of the story. Fueled by interest, the writer bends & twists their literary reflection, gravitating toward material which will echo the sentiments harboured in self-aggrandizement.

Can we trust ego-directed reflection? Should the writer who strives for authenticity & verisimilitude loot their own bag of personal tall tales or battle scars? This is a unique brand of vulnerability, & as such, a measure of courage in the depth of disclosure is required to convey intent. From the confines of memory to the starkness of the page—a risk of self-glorification becomes yet another obstacle in conveying balanced material.

{Paintings by Karel Appel}