The Impulse To Write A Novel

“The impulse to write a novel comes from a momentary unified vision of life.” Angus Wilson

Throughout the years I have always loved and appreciated the simple things that life has thrown my way. I thrive on the relationships I have with my children, with my husband, my students, my friends, my acquaintances, and on my books and my writings. I do not ask for much and most of the time I am happy with what I have. When I was a new graduate from university and at the prime of my life, like any other young person I was more of an idealist. I had dreams and visions of doing something different with my life. As the years passed by and I matured and gained experience and had my share of sorrows and disappointments and heartaches, my perspective changed. I realized that life was not about how much you achieved. It was about how you lived your day, it was about how you preserved your relationships with others, how you kept going day in and day out no matter what happened. Life was about the challenges that you faced on a daily basis, some more life threatening than others.

With time I have become more picky in my choice of books too. While I was always partial to Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Maugham, Steinbeck, Saroyan, Tolstoy, Dostoyevsky, Gorky, Chekhov, Kafka, Sartre, De Beauvoir, Nietzsche, Bradbury, Camus and the likes, I also read detective novels, crime, mystery, the paranormal, and novels of all genres. Now all I want to read are simple stories about simple human beings written in the simplest prose possible. No need for ornate style, or overly drawn plots and characters, no need for the paranormal and crime scenes. Even when I want to start on a new writing project myself, be it an essay or short story or novel, I don’t spend time researching the unknown. Instead I search my subconscious for all “types” of distinctive characters, significant scenes, and unique emotional responses which at one point in my life have meant a great deal to me. As Ernest Hemingway once said:

“When you walk into a room and you get a certain feeling or emotion, remember back until you see exactly what it was that gave you the emotion. Remember what the noises and smells were and what was said. Then write it down making it clear so the reader will see it too, and have the same feeling you had.”

Perhaps no other writer has put it more profoundly and more simply than William Saroyan when he wrote:

“Do not deceive. Do not make up lies for the sake of pleasing anyone. No one need to be killed in your story. Simply relate what is the great event of all history, of all times, the humble, artless truth of mere being. There is no greater theme, no one need be violent to help you with your art. There is violence. Mention it of course when it is time to mention it. Mention the war. Mention all ugliness, all waste. Do even this lovingly. But emphasize the glorious truth of mere being. It is the major theme. You do not have to create a triumphant climax. The man you write of need not perform some heroic or monstrous deed in order to make your prose great. Let him do what he has always done, day in day out, continuing to live. Let him walk and talk and think and sleep and dream and awaken and walk again and talk again and move and be alive. It is enough. There is nothing else to write about. Your own consciousness is the only form you need. Speak of this man, recognize his existence. Speak of man.”


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3 Responses to The Impulse To Write A Novel

  1. marisaporter says:

    I love it.

  2. I agree with you wholeheartedly. Simplicity works best. Readers like the ability to breeze through a story that’s easy to read and that they can relate to. If they are referring to a dictionary every other sentence, they will put the book down and never pick it up again. If it is about some outrageous character doing impossible things, their credibility will be lost and the reader will put down the book and never pick it up again. I have been that reader. There are books on my shelf that are there for just such reasons and will most likely be donated to a charity book sale at some point. Write simply about regular people doing ordinary things and if the extraordinary slips in, once in a while, that’s okay as long as the reader can put themselves in the place of the lead character. 🙂

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