Don’t just write what you know. Write what you want to know.
What you reveal to yourself, you reveal to the reader.
Storytelling is about discovery.
Richard Wagamese, Embers: One Ojibway’s Meditations (Douglas & McIntyre, 2016)
Let me begin by saying that Richard Wagamese has been my go-to writer for the last seven or so years. In my mind, he belongs on the list of Canada’s greatest writers. His work has an authenticity that I admire. When I read his work, I trust what he says, and his words touch me deeply, always.
When I discovered the above quote, I knew it was perfect as an introduction to my story. I am grateful that I was allowed to use it.
How does this quote relate to my writing and The Summer of the Ennead?
First, I have never, to my knowledge, been an animal being, but I wanted to present the animal guides in my story as authentically as I could. Admittedly, the interpretation which I present is clearly mine, but it was born of my imagining as I tried to find words that human readers would understand. It has just occurred to me to mention a favourite book series (Freddy the Pig) from my juvenile (not delinquent) days. It was written by Walter R. Brooks and had such inspiring titles as Freddy Goes to Florida, Freddy and the Spaceship, and my special favourite Freddy the Detective. The animals on Mr. Bean’s farm were very clever. They even had a First Animal Bank. I am sure that all those Freddy Books I read planted the seeds for animals that could communicate in a language understandable by humans. That being said, the animal beings in The Summer of the Ennead are original and entirely born of my search for what I did not know.
Second, if you have read the book, you know that dialogue is very important, and the use of dialogue is how I explore as many possibilities as possible. I had a rough plot outline and a rough idea of structure, but at the outset I would not have been able to predict where and how the story would all play out. But, I did know my characters fairly well at least well enough to get going. When I write, all the characters live in my brain, and I try not to restrict them too much. I let them go and as we move ahead with the story and words appear in my head, I know who is speaking. I realize that ultimately, all the words are mine, but I also realize that each character is a part of me. The beings in my head, be they animal or human are guiding me to that area about which I need to learn in order to tell the story. Often during the writing process I felt that I was a recording secretary taking the minutes of a very complicated meeting.
Finally, the writing of a story is an exploration of the self via the mind. I have published three works of fiction now, and I realize that in each case, I have been imagining other worlds beyond the one in which I find myself. It seems to me that it is the use of imagination to which Richard Wagamese refers in the above quote. In order to write what you do not know you must go where you have not been and this is done with your imagination, with a little help from its old friend empathy.
I am the author of The Summer of the Ennead and I want to use this blog to engage readers in a dialogue about what this book means to me and what I think it has to say to others.