What’s Your Life Worth?

It’s not always just telling a story. I figure just about everyone who sees my blog knows I’m big on story-telling and the techniques of fiction. I don’t know as much about it as I wish I did, but I’ve snuck a few words past a few editors and it’s always fun to jaw about something you love.

Sometimes, though, there’s a lot more to it than putting together a clever story line and interesting characters. Sometimes it’s about something so serious the only way we, as writers, can deal with it properly is to create a parable. We create a story that embodies a message we feel is so important it has to be presented to as many people as possible. That doesn’t mean heavy-gauge stuff: We’re not all agonizing Russians or angst-freighted teenagers, are we? Nor does it mean we’re required to sneer at the people who pump out fluff that reads like it was put together with bent nails. What I’m saying is, it’s a good idea to look inside yourself from time to time and run a quick identity check. All of us present a created world that reflects the one around us as we see it. That means you’re free to weave some personal observation into your work. As long as you don’t get carried away (or pretend one of your characters does) and rocket off on a screed, you do yourself and your reader a service by addressing an issue.

I wrote a book called Light The Hidden Things. I wanted to write about PTSD and veterans. I wanted to show how vital it is for those men (and more and more, those women) to be able to count on the love of a partner. I can’t speak for the women. I think I can speak for the men. It’s my conviction that any of us who have a wife or lover propping us up while we kill our devils multiplies his chances of making a full recovery. The purpose of the book is to get women to think about their role in the battle. I think most of them just think of themselves as loving and helpful. They’re a great deal more. They’re key. So my problem was to make that clear without getting swamped by the need to make the point. I hope I did. I tried. Best any of us can do is try.

When you sit down to write your next paragraph, I hope that, before you do, you ask yourself if there isn’t something you want to flash past your reader. Is there something worth bringing up, just in the hope it’ll help one of your readers ask him/herself an important question? If you have the wit, the skill, the grit to write things in the expectation of publishing them, surely you have the guts to include your vision and your ethical perspective (no matter how subtly) in your story.

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