Observations / Stories

Narrative Reason (I Wish)

First of all, to clarify: I am adamantly against “writing what you know”. How boring would that be? Science fiction would be nowhere by adhering to such an adage. Exploratory texts are how new and important stories are formed. I absolutely advocate going places you’ve never been for the sake of literature and mental expansion.

Except that… when the stakes are down, it’s pretty damn easy to tell when someone hasn’t actually been through whatever they’re writing about.

Not because it feels false, or the prose is badly constructed, or even that the sentiment is missing. These could all be present and perfect. They often are.

It’s easy to tell because there is always a ready explanation for a character’s abnormal condition.

There’s a reason this person has intimacy issues, a reason that a parent won’t marry again, a reason this pet is skittish and afraid. She was raped; he was burned; it was repeatedly abused. Linear narrative logic. Ta-daaa, it says. Trace it back to the beginning.

What about when the arbitrary matter of existence throws something on you that has no precedent or prerequisite or “because”? When your brain decides, of its own accord, that it would rather not? When a person is the way they are—not because of a turning point or major revelation, but because that’s just the way it fucking is?

People are born with depression that has nothing to do with trauma. Children are raised with reservations in complete opposition with the love they are given. Personally, I have issues with touch—not to mention being the subject of intimacy—that are not the result of rape, abuse, or psychological distress. My parents are geniuses who attended to me with care and freedom. My childhood was full of animals, board games, dress-up, and mud days. I could not have more respect or admiration for my sister. My family’s brain game could outclass MENSA with pride.

So why did I have to pay for years of cognitive therapy? Why did my younger sister jump off a building at age 19? Why did my mother’s sister (my aunt) suffer hallucinations in silence for so many years? Where did my loathing of being loved come from?

Sometimes I wish we could be inside a story, where all of this would make perfect sense. Where I could flip back to a beginning chapter and say, See. There it is. That’s the moment things changed. Cue symbolism.

Life is hardly ever so natural.

It’s no wonder I prefer to exist inside fiction. If religion is how individuals make sense of existence, then stories are my only faith.

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2 thoughts on “Narrative Reason (I Wish)

  1. Let me start off by saying this was great, you have revealed a key element for why I am dissatisfied with most writing, I just never realized why. The mystery endures and while it’s nice to reveal a catalyst for most things, it doesn’t have to be a logical conclusion. The protagonist is a champion of justice because he was bullied as a child? Predictable and dull. How about he was the bully and a dramatic incident caused him to seek atonement. Not mind blowing, but better.

    I love old scifi based off of pseudo science, who cares how it works, just throw in some impressive sounding jargon and leave it at that.

    The mystery endures, that’s why so many are fascinated by Jack the Ripper. Like many good horror stories, we don’t know who this killer is, why he’s like that, and he walked off into the grainy sunrise beneath scrolling credits.

    So why do these authors over explain things? I think it has to do with control. It may be as simple as accountability, the writer feels unconfident in his credibility and over explains to say, “See? I have this well thought out. Please trust in my skills as a writer with this proof that I have thought this out so well.” Or it may be something bigger in that we live in a world with out an explanation for anything. Our nature as a species has been to find answers by creating science for tangible things and philosophy for intangible things. We strive to define everything because the unknown is frightening to us. So maybe subconsciously, the writer being in charge of his work feels better by having an exact explanation for why everything is the way it is.

    I’m not defending these authors, I am just surmising the reason why.

    I really enjoyed this one, Holly. Very thought provoking and inspirational. I find I myself over explain things. I’m going to keep this in mind when I write.

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