Friday, 4 August 2017

Other Worlds


Footnotes is a new link-up hosted by Ashley and me. For quotation obsessees (and isn't that all of us?). This month's prompt is: a quotation from an author.

Adams Carvalho
[source]
“Characters pre-exist. They are found. They reveal themselves slowly – as might fellow-travellers seated opposite one another in a very dimly-lit railway carriage.” ~ Eudora Welty

I had to Google this quotation to find its source, Eudora Welty. A Goodreads search told me she’s a twentieth-century writer from Mississippi. I did not know this before. These words were simply written on a scrap of lined paper, stuck to my wall: a jotting from an English lesson some year or two ago, copied down without reference. Nonetheless, I have long loved this quotation and often thought about it.

Characters are not names and eye colours and favourite foods, bullet pointed in a notebook. They are not stick figures. They are at first the whisper of an idea, a shadow, and slowly they move out of darkness and the writer sees them, fully human, having waited there all along.

Often the characters I write surprise me; they do, say or think things completely unexpected, and I look down at my hands, my pen, and think, I am a vessel for someone else.

Is a writer therefore a creator or a conduit? I am a prophetess, looking through the veil from this world to another. Think of fantasy lands; do they not spread, real and vast, far beyond the brains of their writers? Does George RR Martin know every complexity, every inhabitant, of Westeros? Did Tolkien look upon Middle Earth with the benevolent smile of a god; or did he gaze up at its hills and wonder? I think it was the latter. I think there is a third space, between our physical world and the writer’s abstract brain, where all the multitudes of voices from fiction dwell. A parallel universe? A series of parallel universes, bobbing against each other like a conglomeration of stars? Perhaps.

Because it’s true, isn’t it, that readers find things in books which the author did not knowingly place there. Think of those times when you find in a book something so exquisitely specific, so pertinent, it makes you sit back, blinking with recognition. Haven’t you found yourself in the books you read? You have known the book, as the author themselves did not know it. But the truth you have found is real, valid, not merely a cheap insertion of your circumstances or emotions. It is there, shining from the page. Must it not, then, exist somewhere, somewhere neither the author’s brain nor yours?

It amazes and excites me, this shadowland of people, places and ideas, just waiting for someone to discover then. All the books I’ve not yet written, all the characters I haven’t met, seem to float around me, like fish lying deep out of sight in a still dark pool.

To return to Welty’s image of the train: I am a passenger on a journey, heading I don’t know where, and all the possible destinations fill me with wonder. What a privilege, to pull back the curtain and look upon another world, here in the dimly-lit railway carriage.

Agata Wierzbicka_Hidden
[source] // Agata Wierzbicka
ft. my wall
~***~

15 comments:

  1. Excellent! Thanks very much for sharing - I believe I'll be trying this link up, too. :)

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  2. your handwriting, man. so prettttty.

    I love this idea. characters are so very personal, and yet, they are also their own person. parts of them you create and parts of them you discover over time, and not one is exactly the same as the other. such a beautiful concept.

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    1. Ely, you're so kind! Characters are amazing. So much love in my heart for all my beaut team!

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  3. It all comes down to characters. Typically, I start stories with someone doing something, and everything builds around that first sentence. I like to construct my stories from relationships between my various characters and relationships between my characters and the physical setting, though I also try to take into account full societies of people.

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    1. It really does. Relationships are at the heart. But yeah, societies are really interesting; that tension between the personal and the political is something I love to explore!

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  4. Okay can I just straight up say that everything you write is flawless. That bit that said "Is a writer therefore a creator or a conduit? I am a prophetess, looking through the veil from this world to another. Think of fantasy lands; do they not spread, real and vast, far beyond the brains of their writers?" completely got me, and reminded me that I'm so chuffed to have such great writer blogger friends.
    Yes yes yes, I've found bits of myself in characters I've read about. I feel like characters may be personal to the writers themselves, but can also manifest something of great importance to the reader that could be taken in an entirely different way.
    And um, is that your handwriting in the final image? Because that handwriting is flawless and if it is yours then I am insanely jealous X)
    Also, do you think you'll forever be changed after your African experience? Like I'm just super curious, has it changed anything in you or what you think? I feel like I'd think about it every day haha.

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    1. Amy, you are SO NICE THANK YOU SO MUCH?!!! Seriously, bro, this is the best comment ever!!!!

      Yes, that is my handwriting! I've been planning for a while to do a post about why I handwrite first drafts, and I think I defs will because my handwriting has got so much love in these comments! XD

      Re Kenya, yes, totally, I still do think about it every day and it changed me so much! In what ways, you ask? Why Amy, there's a post for that! XD
      https://sparrowsflysouth.blogspot.co.uk/2017/07/what-i-learned-on-my-gap-year.html

      (Srs, thanks so much for this lovely comment!)

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  5. The characters seem to create themselves. I am one of those authors who is constantly surprised by what my characters do. I love how you put it so eloquently. I am in awe of that handwriting.

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    1. It's amazing how they do it, isn't it? Thank you, Skye! <3

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  6. It's so strange and fascinating to create characters that are different than yourself.

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  7. Love this quote. ^ ^

    storitorigrace.blogspot.com

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    1. Same! Glad it struck a chord with you, too.

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  8. So, so true! I love this! There were so many times when younger me would brainstorm a character with a list of traits and what I wanted them to be like. But then I started writing them and was like, "Where did this person come from?" I'm just glad I wasn't persistent then on my own way. XD It's so much more fun to write into a character. Although I do still write a short summary of them after discovering a character, just so I keep everything straight in my head.

    On a side note, I've been listening to this podcast called Writing Excuses, and instead of using the term "pantsing," they usually say "discovery writing." I really love that term because that's what "pantsing" is about. Discovering the characters and story as you go.

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Thanks for commenting! :)