Guest blogger Chris

I first met Chris at the 2009 Pacific Northwest Writers Association Conference in Seattle. An affable man, generous with praise and encouragement, Chris writes fantasy. Unlike the vast majority I’ve spoken with, however, he is paying his dues. Attending workshops, refining his manuscript, hiring an editor, Chris is doggedly pursuing the road to publication. I invited him to join us because I felt he was someone who would have something to contribute. Raymond

Since this is my first “guest blog” I wanted to take it easy and start with something simple and non-controversial—Oh wait—that’s someone else. I have many fine attributes and a few flaws but playing it safe is not numbered among them.

In the war between the Creationists and the Evolutionists, who argue these concepts ad nauseum, I believe that both sides fail to grasp what is, in my never to be humble opinion, the most obvious and likely answer: Both are correct. (I promise, this really is a blog on writing. Just bear with me a moment or two longer).

Nothing can begin in total void. Something must be there, even something infinitesimally small that we cannot even begin to know. Therefore, Creation must have taken place. Someone created something: somehow, somewhere, somewhen.

Once created however, it was (and is) allowed to evolve on its own. You can choose to argue it is a guided evolution or a huge series of random, chaotic circumstances just bumping up against one another, but, since we do have what comes down to very nearly conclusive proof of evolution, we can accept that it too did (and does) occur.
Writing creates similar and just as vehement arguments. There are writers who map out their entire book before writing a word. They know every character trait and flaw of each individual. There are no surprise guest stars in the midst of their writings. Everything is laid out and each plan is followed to the letter and they are certain that this method is the one which will garner the most professional and successful results. I find that for myself, when this process is adhered to religiously, you achieve very dynamic story structure but often lose the “soul” of the work.

There are other writers who swear by sitting down at the keyboard and starting to write, allowing the characters go and the plot to develop as it will. These writers also swear that this is the most natural and “organic” method of writing. While this can bring forth some absolutely amazing experiences in the written word, if completely left to the “inspiration of the moment” I find myself losing the essence of the authors vision in the chaotic and ever-changing pages of “newer” and “cooler” ideas.

For myself, I again believe that extremists in these two camps have missed the point. Nothing can emerge from a total void so we must create something. Some start with a line of dialogue or a specific scene that springs to mind or even something as simple as the name of a character. We draw upon life as we have experienced or witnessed and thereby begin the process of creation.

Then, once you have “created” this amorphous being called the story, it is essential to ask what he, she or it is going to do. Life does not occur all at a single instance and neither does the story. As fiction writers specifically we cannot simply allow those creative experiences to lie as-is on the page. We color them with our emotions and grow them through our own ideals and desires and sometimes our fears. We must allow this process of evolution to happen and breathe, not just to lie there and exist. Life, the life of our story, must be allowed to evolve to its fullest. And yet, we must oversee this evolution so that our child-as it were-grows up strong, graceful and healthy.

Whether it does this in our head or on the page doesn’t matter. That we do it, that we write, is the entire point for us. (See, I told you it was a blog about writing).

One last comment I wish to leave you with: as this is my first chance to share with all of you who read these blogs, I want to give you something to think about. Many people argue the differences or the not-so-differences between man and the other animals on this planet of ours as a way to prove one system of belief over another. Do animals have souls? Is man the only creature who has a language? This goes on and on and nothing can be proven one way or the other to the exclusion of all other facts.

However, it is my belief that man has something that does indeed set him apart from all other species on our world. In my mind it proves the existence of a divine spark in our existence, ruling out completely the possibility that we are a cosmic series of accidents.
To the best of my knowledge, man is the only creature which tells stories.

Chris Cook-Sussan


5 responses to “Guest blogger Chris

  1. Jar O' Marbles

    I think animals communicate it ways that we don’t even imagine or at least can’t hear lol. And Bacon(my 6 lb chihuahua) definitely has a language all her own.

    I definitely agree with you that the truth is somewhere between the creation and evolution theories.

  2. Years ago, before I became a writer, I happened to see a group of authors on television discussing their ideas on writing. While each approached his/her craft differently—some were outliners, some were “fog walkers” as our Kate likes to call herself—each agreed it was necessary to know the ending at the outset. It did not occur to me the fact they were mystery writers made this viewpoint essential. I mean, how can one write a mystery without knowing who dunnit? Nonetheless, this has influenced my approach from the outset.

    Consider this: if you get in the car and say, “I’m driving to New York,” you may take unexpected turns along the way and meet characters you never planned to, but eventually you will get to New York. On the other hand, if you get in the car and just drive… Well, who knows? You may get somewhere, or end up driving around and around the block.

    The point is, I agree. “once you have ‘created’ this amorphous being called the story, it is essential to ask what he, she or it is going to do.”

    Welcome aboard, Chris. Glad you could make it.

  3. A continuum – that’s how writing goes in general, and how life goes in general. I’ve never thought about creation/evolution in quite this way, but I think of a petrie dish and how things begin from a single tiny whatever – and then evolves.

    Thanks for joining us.


  4. Thank you all for the opportunity to offer up my ideas and the warm welcome. Your comments are all good and allow me to continue and evolve my own views (oooh, look, I tied my comment back to my theme…sorry, that was just the author in me being snarky!). Really though, I am pleased to be here.
    As for the idea that you must know where you are going, I don’t always agree there. Mystery is a different animal in general and you probably should know “the Butler did it” before you start…but for fantasy and many other forms of writing, the creation can start with a great idea (or even a mediocre one) and work itself out. For me, the story is not plot driven but character driven (but I will address that in another blog, if I am fortunate enough to be asked to contribute again.)

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