Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Flaming stories: N M Browne

I love this http://hyperboleandahalf.blogspot.com/
and it seems to me that it exposes the essential fearfulness of some of us writers. Don’t get me wrong I am right up there with the biggest cowards. It is my fear that fuels my fiction: fear of the dark and the weird things in it, fear of sharp objects, fire and flood, fear that I will fail to keep my children safe, fear of all the world might throw at them.

I am a primitive creature squatting by my fireside in the darkest of nights telling stories to hold back the shadows. I don’t believe in sympathetic magic: I know that battles won in fiction where courage, faith and honour are rewarded, do not mean that battles will be won in life. I know that keeping my heroes safe (ish) will not protect my loved ones. I know that I am not heroic because my characters are heroic. I know all this and yet somehow I still believe that in some small way the stories do hold back the dark.

Perhaps by acting out my fears on paper I am a little less neurotic in life, perhaps even a little bit braver? For how do we learn about courage except from stories about the courageous?
How do we come to believe that right can prevail except through those tales in which it does?

I absorbed a lot of my moral values from my own childhood reading, from Reepicheep and Biggles as much as from Jo Marsh and Anne of Green Gables. (This probably accounts for some of the more bizarre inconsistencies in my personality.)
In their various ways all the fictional characters that live in my head have shown me ways to be and not to be, given me choices. In my fiction even my most confused and uncertain characters choose, in the end, to hold back the shadows.

It would be nice to think that fearful as I am, readers see not the horrors but the victories in my fiction, that they see the courage of my characters not the cowardice of the writer. Maybe you have to fear the dark to evoke it with any conviction, dread it in order to overcome it with any sense of triumph?


Penny Dolan said...

Agree. Always feels a bit of a sham when one's hero deals with things better than you know you would, but comforting to share in their adventures.

Thanks for the post - and for your link at the start! Had to copy & paste into google but, yes, well worth the extra couple of clicks.

Catherine Johnson said...

Me too Penny and Nicky. I can imagine all sorts of things in the dark of the back garden at night. My characters are all a million times braver than me!