Monday, October 14, 2013
"It's Called (Writing)"
I love it when I see interviews of film and TV stars and the interviewer is really fixated on how the actor's latest role is nothing like their last one. Or perhaps the talk show host knows the actor well enough to say that the role is so disturbingly unlike their "real" personality.
The actor will usually try to explain something that they drew on (inside themselves, or by observation) to convincingly play a crazed serial killer, but when pressed, they're eventually reduced to some form of "It's called acting." (Even Elmo has used that explananation; see the video at the bottom of the post)
This cracks me up, because as writers we fall under the same kind of scrutiny. If we include a matricidal villain, we get questions (and assumptions) about how we feel about mothers. If we include poisons or bioweapons in our spy thriller, people stop accepting invitations to dinner parties at our homes (although, the NSA or FBI may occasionally arrive without an invitation).
It's as if people think that the phrase "write what you know" is more of a natural law than fairly impractical advice. After all, if we were all writing only what we ourselves had experienced, fiction would be a much narrower field.
There could be no works with characters of the opposite gender, no stories featuring characters beyond the people we meet in our daily lives, no re-imaginations of historical events. No fantastical creatures from the "here there be dragons" portions of the map, rather than the real-life ones on display in zoos or sleeping on our sofas.
So here's to imagining worlds and experiences beyond our own little spheres--and writing them so well that we can know them ourselves. And bringing readers along on that journey too.