What Is Real

If write your story accurately, no one will ever see any of its characters, yet every reader will know what these protagonist looks like. If you write your story with compassion, nobody will actually die, but your reader will feel the loss of death when your heroine’s best friend succumbs to cancer. If you write your story with joy, no one will actually get married, but your reader will know the satisfaction of consummated love. Our stories don’t exist in the material world. At best, the books in which they are printed could be torched for a little heat; at worst, with digital readers, not even that. You can hold a book, but you cannot hold the story. You can read the word “fire” with your seeing eyes, but the heat it gives burns only in the furnace of your imagination. Writers traffic in thought and dreams and possibility.

Yet a thought, a story, can last longer than any building, longer even than some mountains. Rivers might go dry while a story is still being told. It is tempting to write with this idea of immortality in mind, thinking that somehow if future strangers are still whispering your name in libraries and classrooms you will somehow avoid what is often seen as the travesty of death.

Perhaps we write with another idea of immortality in mind. Perhaps we write to forget what is absolutely going to die and remember what cannot. If a thought, if a story, can endure through time, if that story is immune to wind and plague and bombs, where are you going when you “find your characters?” As you enter that story, as you lose track of time, is this retreat a forgetting of what is real, or a remembering of what you are?


Write Within Yourself: An Author's Companion. "A book to keep nearby whenever your writer's spirit needs feeding." Deb Caletti.

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