Here’s something that I believe: the best stories are written from the heart. But what does that mean?
Statements like that are tricky generalisations. Do I mean that writers should always have an important message to deliver? No, and no again. Save me from fictional lectures, please. That’s a blog post for another week.
What I mean by heart are stories that are rounded in the way that E.M. Forster said good main characters should be. To read them is to exist within their reality , and when I’m writing, that’s what I aim to achieve.
Transporting someone into my fictional world is a tall order, so like most other writers, I’m always looking for the best way to do that. One method most of us try at some point is to draw from our life experiences: it fits with the principle of “writing what we know”.
Sounds simple, doesn’t it? Well Hilary Mantel’s take on this is worth considering:
I have sat, at moments of purest heartbreak, in mental agony, and put my thoughts on paper, and then I have taken those thoughts and allocated them to one of my characters, largely for comic effect.
The heart, she seems to be saying, should not always translate directly onto the public page.
I take the warning. I’ve dusted off an old diary and am seeing for myself that feelings at their purest, or rawest, tend to generate ‘purple’ prose, or poetry, with plenty of comic potential. At the time it was a form of therapy, now it’s something I could transform: I can see segments that would help to round-out my imaginative writing.
It’s good to think that some of that energy might be used constructively after all.