My doctor asked me about this because he was interested. He got me interested, too. How can I explain what I actually do, and what it’s like to do it?
My task is a simple one. I make up a world that doesn’t exist and persuade readers to imagine they are there. I invent fictitious characters and get readers to respond to them as if they were real people. I make up events, based on real events I’ve found in the Bible or studied in history, and persuade readers that these events occurred.
Well, all right–not really! No one actually believes the stories that I write. But they can believe them for a little while: like the way you can let go when you’re watching a movie, and let the audio and the visuals just carry you along.
I try to make reading my book to be like watching a movie, to make the experience for the reader as effortless as possible. To do this, I choose every word based on how it interacts with other words and makes the sentence flow. Too much of that can be annoying; not enough, and it reminds the reader that he’s only reading words on a page. I know I’ve succeeded when a reader tells me, “Reading your books is like watching movies.”
For the story to work, I have to get myself into a frame of mind that’s not always easy to achieve. Sometimes it can only be achieved while I’m asleep. You’d be surprised how many scenes and incidents in my books started out as dreams. Some of the characters, too. Sometimes it can be achieved when I’m doing something else. The whole climax to The Fugitive Prince came to me as I was walking down the street to the Chinese restaurant. Just pow! There it was. All I had to do was write it.
This is a little hard to explain, but I feel–not ideate, but feel–that I have actually been to the world of Obann and seen it with my own eyes. How else can I write about it? If I don’t see it, I won’t be able to make the reader see it. I’ve been to Lintum Forest, with my feet rustling in the leaves. I’ve been in the labyrinth of tunnels under Obann City. Again, not really. But I don’t see how you can write fantasy at all, without ramping up your imagination to a certain high level–although I have read, alas, all too many fantasies in which no imagination was employed at all.
I may return to this subject later, if any of you out there are interested. I hope it’s good weather tomorrow, so I can take up my legal pad, out there with the birds and breezes, and ask the Lord to give me more of the story, and to help me tell it.