How much thought have you given to the purpose of your writing? Author Sydney Avey challenges us to dig deeper into what determines our writing world with her beautiful and thought-provoking article.
Your Writing World
Settling into a folding chair in the Scottsdale Civic Center Library’s Gold Room, ready to mine the deep cave of writing genres, I listen carefully as the seminar leader points to one rich vein after another: cozy murder mysteries, political thrillers, space opera sci-fi, medieval fantasy, Viking romance, and so much more. I leaf through three pages of genres. Women’s fiction seems to have been commandeered by chick-lit. Where does my work fit?
“If it’s not on this list,” the seminar leader says, “then it’s literary fiction.” I picture a rusted train car sidetracked on a weedy railroad bed while sleek, modern, high-speed rails whizz passengers to pleasurable destinations.
I move to the auditorium to listen to a presentation on setting. “Give me three words that describe your writing world,” the presenter says. “What’s the mood and ambiance?”(Try this exercise. It will sharpen your focus on your purpose.) Hands pop up with lists like dirty, dark, and dangerous; sexy, sensual, and seductive; delicious, delightful, and delectable (did I mention that culinary mystery is a sub-genre?) I touch pen to paper and my fingers freeze. The words I hold back seem too precious, too affected.
What determines your writing world?
What engages your imagination and makes your heart beat faster? What causes you, on a sensory level, to perceive the vital essence of your story? Is it adventure into uncharted territory? Is it fascination with otherworldly creatures and their scary intentions? Is it yearning for a relationship that promises to deliver happy-ever-after?
My writing world is character driven, stylistic, and fueled by themes and ideas. Family legends about my ancestors have invited me to think deeply about the effect of their actions on subsequent generations. Love of literature that elevates the human condition leads me to explore what motivates people to rise above difficult circumstances.
Truth, beauty, and hope are seed stock for my stories. Truth, both gritty and great; beauty found in darkness and in light; and hope in the expectation of Psalm 27:13, “I remain confident of this; I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.”
Literary fiction, known as general or mainstream fiction in its lighter form, is not the sole proprietor of truth, beauty and hope. There are truthful, beautiful, and hopeful moments in many other genres. In Others of my Kind, a noir story about abuse, James Sallis explores a larger theme, the role memory plays in identity. “The past is what we are, even as we’re constantly leaving it,” his horrifically abused character says. Her redemption seems to lie in her resilience and an unselfish act, where neither was demanded of her. Grace can shine in any genre.
Our passions are as varied as the rising number of genres and subgenres. If truth, beauty and hope are part of your writing world, then grace will abide.
A feast of family can be a plate-load of problems!
It’s the Sixties. Modernity and tradition clash as two newlywed couples set up house together. Dee and her daughter Valerie move with their husbands into a modern glass house Valerie built in a proudly rural Los Altos, California neighborhood. When their young relatives start showing up and moving in, the neighbors get suspicious. Then a body is found in the backyard and the life they are trying to build comes undone.
Father Mike is back to guide Dee through a difficult time with humor and grace, even as his own life is unraveling. Now he’s going to have to take some of his own advice about love.
A sequel to The Sheep Walker's Daughter, The Lyre and the Lambs explores the passions that draw people together and the faith it takes to overcome trauma.
Sydney Avey lives in the Sierra Nevada foothills of Yosemite, California, and the Sonoran Desert in Arizona. She has a bachelor’s degree in English from the University of California, Berkeley, and a lifetime of experience writing news for non profits and corporations. Her work has appeared in Epiphany, Foliate Oak, Forge, American Athenaeum, Unstrung (published by Blue Guitar Magazine) and Ruminate. She has studied at the Iowa Summer Writing Festival. Sydney is the author of two novels, The Sheep Walker’s Daughter and The Lyre and the Lambs. She blogs at sydneyavey.com on topics related to love and mystery, family relationships, conflicts between generations, and how faith functions in real life.
You can connect with Sydney in a number of ways:
LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/sydneyave y