In most of the stories we tell, someone will have something and they will lose it, or they will be missing something and they will find it. Our characters will lose friends and lovers and they will find friends and lovers; they will lose money and homes and jewelry, and they will find money and homes and jewelry. All around our characters will be the things they can lose and they can find, and they will despair when these things are lost and rejoice when they are found. We are wiser in many ways than our characters, however. We can see what they cannot. We giveth and taketh with impunity because what they have or don’t have means nothing to us. Only the story means anything to us. The props with which we surround our characters cost us nothing. We can give our characters a mansion as easily as we can give them shoebox. We can kill everyone they love in one chapter and repopulate their life with friends in the next. We can do whatever we want. We are the authors, and all that matters is the story.
And as authors, we know that our story moves forward through what our characters feel. We do not care that our characters live in a mansion, we only care what our characters feel like in that mansion. We do not care that our characters have found a new lover, we only care what they feel like when they are with that new lover. We are as delighted with our characters’ despair as we are with their joy as long as that despair or joy belongs in our story.
The story is never about anyone or anything. Often it is hard to say what the story is about. We write our little descriptions in query letters or pitches, but these are like the dry skeletons of the living thing we hope to share. This is why if you get us talking about our stories we sometimes cannot stop. It is because they are so interesting to us that we sat down and wrote them. It is because they are so interesting to us that we cannot say what they are about, for in our minds we see the whole of what we’ve made, a delightful and interesting thing from beginning to end, a love letter that came to us in the shape of a story.
Write Within Yourself: An Author's Companion. "A book to keep nearby whenever your writer's spirit needs feeding." Deb Caletti.