Writing is the art of faking. We should all be experts at it. In a way, we lie for a living.
Well, so do politicians, scam artists, the advertising branch of major companies, not a few TV news groups, and cult leaders. But I won’t get into any of that. This is the election season, and I think most of us have already had enough of the above mentioned kind of fakery.
Joking aside, there is a positive aspect to lying for a living. Good actors can enter the body and spirit of characters very different from themselves to provoke healthy laughter, raise our spirits, or give us pause for thought. Visual artists can present reality in a way that bears no outward resemblance to reality, and, in so doing, awaken us to a new understanding of reality or even make us feel something about a subject to which we have become numb. Think Picasso’s Guernica. Fiction writers perform much the same function as performance or visual artists. And there is some truth that we have to keep faking it until we make it.
Over the several mysteries in my medieval series, I have started a book with one idea in mind, maybe one particular character, one story, and one opening scene. By the end of the writing, I have usually kept the idea, but I can guarantee you that I have dumped promising characters, opening scenes, and have added subplots or branches to the main story. I can’t tell you the number of times I have been happily tapping along when this vile little voice starts its chant: “Not working! Boring! What story do you think you’re telling anyway? I haven’t a clue. Do you?” When Vile Little Voice gets loud enough, I escape to the wine country to channel my inner Van Gogh in Arles (keeping both ears). The next day, I consider what really should be happening in the book, then slash and burn to the bones.
In short, faking it is an art, and, if we keep working at the faking, we have a good chance of finally making it work.