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}


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