Friday, 22 June 2012

How to Live One Thousand Lives

Writer is a peculiar creature, often seen hanging around with a strange group of friends. Research is Writer’s best friend, the friend who is always there and who you mock because, hey, that’s what you do with your best friend! Writer’s second best friend is Characters – people Writer talks about constantly, pores over night and day to make sure that they develop into mature people, the kind of friend who everyone thinks the writer is crazy for crushing on. Setting is an important friend in Writer’s group, that one friend who apparently takes charge. Finally, there is Conflict, the one friend who is a slight attention whore who has to make drama for everyone, and who Writer finds a solution for at some point.

'A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies ... The man who never reads lives only one.” (GRR Martin). The same is true of writers.  Creative writing is an incredible discipline, and I’ve often thought that some of the best writers out there must be some of the greatest minds the world has ever known. The creation of worlds, histories, and individuals is an astonishing feat in and of itself, and the authors responsible for it go to a lot of effort to make it happen.

The writer and the reader share a unique relationship. For me, being both a writer and a reader is about having a two-way existential crisis: the characters are both fictional and real, and the same is true of me. Fictional in the sense that they are avatars brought to life by imagination, real in the sense that the character is able to make you feel for them. For both writers and readers, stories offer the opportunity to live as many lives as they choose, hence George RR Martin’s famous quote. When I studied English, I found it tedious to analyse every aspect of a story because it felt like the life was being torn away from it, so I decided to read History at university and just enjoy the books I read.

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