Consider today's blog as a first cousin to the Quick Hits writing tips. In previous posts, I said that all writing can be boiled down into Who What When Where and Why. Today I'd like to talk about Why.
As in Why write? Why write about _____________? Why do you spend all your free time neglecting friends and family and having a life so you can scribble a few sentences on a notepad or stay up all night pounding out sentences as if you life depended on it.
Anyone can give you a reason for writing: convey and idea. Tell a story. Spread the news.
Writers suffer a more debilitating affliction, they write as if their soul will expire if the don't.
See, people who write do it whether they like it or not. They cannot help themselves. They pick up a pencil and write a story as soon as they've read their first book. They see how it's done and want to to do. Some hear a poem and know they've heard something that touches their soul, and just know they have to do the same thing in order to live. Some hear the stories of their ancestors and are convinced that recording them is an act of precious preservation.
For me, writing began when I read newspapers and then a news magazines and realized I was learning about things going on on the far side of the world. It put the idea in my head that I could travel and tell a story for people who may never have been where I've been. When I was older and I enlisted in the Navy as a journalist, I traveled to the far side of the world, and it captured my imagination like nothing ever before. Which is why I've been writing stories about Japan for so many years, stories that over time have been broken up into little pieces and rearranged into other stories.
One of the very first experiences I had in Japan, trying to have as ordinary a day as possible in the midst of everything that was so new and different, was the day I went to a park, sat on a bench, and watched the world around me. I saw the pigeons swoop and sway and then land on the vast plaza, the moms and dads and babies in strollers and young people stealing intimate moments. Then I saw a grandfather playing with a granddaughter, a child no more than 2 years old, the old man grinning, clapping, talking in a sing-song voice, the little girl scampering to and fro, first to a pigeon that landed oh so close, then back to the grandfather when the bird suddenly took flight, laughing brightly.
"This could be anywhere," I thought. And then I realized I could write a story placed in Japan, about the people I met and lived with: servicemen, Japanese guys and gals, government officials, everyday folk. I decided to use my expat experience as the basis for tell a story about right and wrong, how the unforeseen and the accidental can change the story of person's life.
I wrote many different versions of a story I had in my head until the cast of characters came out in such a way that a detective story emerged, and that's how I came to write Be Careful What You Ask For. It's the first of series of novels about a police inspector who becomes a private investigator in retirement, but never seems to escape the cast of characters infiltrating his life: cops, gangsters, and a wealthy industrialist who seems to be his only client.
Why do I write? To tell these stories.
Why do you write?