Seeing Castles

Writing is about creative selection. You may see the whole castle from which your imaginary king and queen rule, but you must select those few, delicious details that suggest its complete majesty or decrepitude. Your details are markers for the reader’s imagination, which, if stimulated, rushes in to decorate your world and bring it fully to life. It is easy, however, when rereading your own work to imagine the whole from which you chose your parts and believe the reader sees this whole as well. Which is why we sometimes share our works in progress with a friend or editor or fellow writer. A reader’s innocence can be invaluable to help us see where our details suggested an incomplete world.

But it is not always easy to hear what is missing from your stories. And so time is another kind of beta reader. After enough time you have forgotten the whole from which you selected your parts, and you read the story as if it were someone else’s. And it is, in a way. If enough time has passed, you have changed in ways small and large, and this New You can read the story and not be hurt by what is missing.

Life, meanwhile, remains a story we are telling ourselves and telling ourselves. If we have been alive long enough, we have been telling this story for quite a long time. It is hard to put this story down, however, but fortunately life provides fresh eyes again and again to help us see the story new. These are called children. The old – myself, unfortunately, included – always assume it is their job to teach the young. It is exactly the other way around. Children do not come in knowing the story we have been telling and telling, and they always see the holes that we have not.

Who wants to hear what your story is missing? When we are told what is missing from our story we call children ungrateful or naïve. They’ll learn the truth. What they learn is what we have learned, to summon within us the simple courage to express that portion of the truth missing from the story we tell about life. And as this picture is completed, the castle is revealed, and we see the home in which we have always lived.

9781935961994-Perfect_CS.indd

Write Within Yourself: An Author’s Companion.

A book to keep nearby whenever your writer’s spirit needs feeding.” Deb Caletti.

You can find William at: williamkenower.com

Follow wdbk on Twitter

A Friendly Canvas

When I started telling stories, I quickly realized I had to know why I was telling a story before I began it. It wasn’t enough to know simply that I wanted to tell a story, that I wanted the attention that came from having my turn on stage, because once my turn came my mission was accomplished, so to speak, and there remained the unanswered question of what exactly I planned to do with that attention.

So I thought I should share a good feeling. The first good feeling that came to mind was accomplishment. These stories usually went something like this: “I won! Not the other guys – me!” If you were my mother or father you might have enjoyed this story, but only because – as I have learned in the last twenty-one years – parents can fool themselves into believing their child’s accomplishments are their own. For the rest of humanity, however, this was a boring story. Bragging kept the audience at a distance where they were not allowed to join me in my triumph, only admire and applaud me.

So I endeavored to find stories that would invite my audience to join me. I noticed that tales of woe usually attracted a commiserative band of sympathizers. In these stories I was the innocent victim of someone else’s lousiness. There is a kind of brotherhood in outrage, but these stories left me feeling as lousy as the person who’d wronged me. A good story, it seemed to me, should leave everyone in a better place than when it started.

I eventually found stories that began with a problem to which I had contributed. Usually I didn’t realize I had contributed to the problem until the end, the delicious end, where the problem was corrected not through action but perception. In this way, every story brought me back to that moment before I’d begun telling stories, a world without good guys or bad guys, a friendly canvas waiting to be filled.

9781935961994-Perfect_CS.indd

Write Within Yourself: An Author’s Companion.

A book to keep nearby whenever your writer’s spirit needs feeding.” Deb Caletti.

You can find William at: williamkenower.com

Follow wdbk on Twitter