So you can read my books

Wednesday, August 11, 2010


I dropped in to chat with my young friend, Roland.

He was lying on his back, a sock, of all things, over his eyes.

He was being murdered by a migraine he groaned.

He asked if I would write to the young writer of today in his place.

I looked at the keyboard.
To write again. And to write of the art of prose.

I felt renewed.
But how to fill the vacuum of the blank monitor screen?

Vacuum. That was the key.

Despite the deluge from the media and this new technology, the internet,

today's young writer is oddly forced to function in a vacuum of the human race.

The irony of your main character is not that he or she is not tough enough or brave enough or deserving enough to be accepted into humanity.

No, there simply is no human race there.

Just a mass of frustrated urges, fears of terrorism, and nightmares of economic insecurity and rampant crime,

unredeemed by hope or education or self-awareness.

All your characters can do is buzz inside the upside-down tumbler of conventions and customs that have replaced humanity.

People all around us are being de-souled like stallions being gelded.

As a writer, your basest crime is to ignore the human soul.

I stroll unseen down the aisles of the bookstores of today's cities.

It seems to me that the young man or woman writing today has forgotten the problems of the human heart in conflict with itself ...

which alone can make good writing because only that is worth writing about, worth the agony and the sweat.

In your imagination have no room for anything but the old verities and truths of the heart,

the old universal truths lacking which any story is ephemeral and doomed -

love and honor and pity and pride and compassion and sacrifice.

Until he does so, the writer labors under a curse.

He writes not of love but of lust,

of defeats in which nobody loses anything of value, of victories without hope and, worst of all, without pity or compassion.

His griefs grieve on no universal bones, leaving no scars.

He writes not of the heart but of the glands.

He writes of the end of all that makes Man more than an animal.

I decline to accept the end of man. I believe that man will not merely endure: he will prevail.

He is immortal, not because he alone among creatures has an inexhaustible voice,

but because he has a soul, a spirit capable of compassion and sacrifice and endurance.

The poet’s, the writer’s, duty is to write about these things.

It is his privilege to help man endure by lifting his heart,

by reminding him of the courage and honor and hope and pride and compassion and pity and sacrifice which have been the glory of his past.

The poet’s voice need not merely be the record of man,

it can be one of the props, the pillars to help him endure and prevail.

You writers out there reading this, you have a sacred duty.

Entertain, yes.

But touch the heart, the soul. Mankind needs you to do this. And deep down, you know you need to do this, too.


  1. Hear, hear! One of the reasons I no longer read much genre fiction is that I feel it lacks "soul." I love fast-moving plots and specific story styles as much as the next person, but if there's no heart to a story, no deeper meaning, no questions to be answered, it feels like so much fluff.

  2. K.M. : And why bother, right? If there is no soul, no heart to the story, Cotton Candy is sweet but just fluff. No substance to nourish the body. Prose without soul starves the spirit of the person who reads it. Thanks for dropping by.

  3. A story does need to address multiple issyes. Action and character development are vital. SO is conflict. A love story and overcoming insurmountable odds are important. Self sacrifice. Social issues. There is much an author can incorporate into a novel. One of the issues I addressed is ethics. Example:

    Chase had been faced with a similar decision when he agreed to retrieve the stolen flash drive in Las Vegas. He was not a person who normally broke into a place with the intention of taking items that did not belong to him, especially items that would be of special interest to police investigating the murder of a state senator.

    But he understood highly advanced technologies in the wrong hands could harm countless innocent lives. In a utilitarian sense, Chase believed the moral worth of his actions and the contribution to the greater good of mankind outweighed the ethical dilemma of breaking the law. Considering the potential consequences of Professor Fischer’s son’s future actions, he felt a moral obligation to stop further murders, and that the end would certainly justify the means.

    Of course, within this ethical delimma is more conflict, both internal and external, that will help drive the story forward.

  4. Oh my Goodness, this is awesome. And what I'm trying so hard to do myself, at the same time that I fear being accused of outdated sentimentality. This is why it's taken me so long to write this book - the constant agony between what I want to write and what I feel is acceptable to the modern audience.

    This, combined with my post today, both strengthen my conviction that I must write what I believe in, and trust Fate to find my words a venue.

    Thank you so much for posting this. I'm going to make it a permanent link somewhere, somehow, that I can go back to when I need it. Probably on my sidebar with my other "useful links."

  5. Thanks for the thoughtful post, Roland.

    Believe it or not, in spite of my working title, my genre fiction has human emotion, failures, foibles and suffering in it.

    My MC, in his way, questions what life is about. I actually wonder if these things will make it harder to get published in genre fiction.

    It has lightness and fluff and lust, as well. But still...I wonder.

    Thanks for reminding me about what's important, though. Makes me feel better:)

  6. This was deep on so many levels. When Faulkner was relaying the following, I forgot for a moment that he was talking about our characters. It can also apply to the insanity of our world today.

    To illustrate add:'People today are' to "Just a mass of frustrated urges, fears of terrorism, and nightmares of economic insecurity and rampant crime, unredeemed by hope or education or self-awareness.

    All they [you] can do is buzz inside the upside-down tumbler of conventions and customs that have replaced humanity.

    People all around us are being de-souled like stallions being gelded."

    Then, "As a writer [human being], your basest crime is to ignore the human soul."

    OMG, Roland.

    Are these your words or Faulkners? Either way, they are profound. Whether we apply it to our writing or to our lives.

    You're a genius. Thank you for this beautiful [but scary] insight.

    ~that rebel, Olivia

  7. Touching the heart is never out-dated. We just must learn the modern paths to the heart. Over use has made some paths cliched.

    But talking straight to the heart and yearnings for the primal needs of the readers will always register on their psyches.

    We all yearn for a safe place, a safe person, one who sees us for who we are and cares for all of us, not just pie wedges of us.

    One who listens with a caring ear in a world with lonely souls all shouting to be seen, to be valued, to be needed.

    Thanks, Christine, I was feeling a bit unheard and unappreciated before your comment and those of K.M. and Stepehen.

  8. In the time it took me to say THANKS, Terry and Olivia both wrote comments that also lifted my spirits. Thanks to you both.

  9. I could never write solely for the entertainment value; I've got to feel as if what I'm writing can make a difference, however small.

  10. Roland, you are the only other person I know who has read Dorothy Sayers! So that makes you extremely appreciable in my world. :-D

  11. Agreed Mr. Faulkner. I truly agree. I believe if your story has a heart and your characters a voice, a soul can be produced.

    Writers should not just be entertainers or recorders of the tales of man and beyond. Writers SHOULD BE the makers of fictional souls, which remind the real how it is to feel.

  12. Roland, I know how you feel. When any of my regular friends don't comment on my blog, I feel hurt. But then I tell myself, maybe today was real busy for them or somehow they just missed it.

    When I worked in journalism, it hardens you. It was one of the reasons I got out. I felt I was losing my heart, my feelings. It's easier not to feel - but it's empty.

    I'd rather feel hurt than feel nothing. But I also try to brace myself for the little hurts of everyday life. The big ones, well, we just have to get through those. Am I saying this right? You are so much more eloquent than I am:) Just trying to make you feel better, as you so often do for me. You probably don't even know how much you help me.

    Have a good night and a good night's sleep. I always enjoy your kind words:)

  13. I always write with the aim of touching the heart or soul...whether I achieve that or not in the end is debatable...

  14. Blogger is being mean to me today.

    Halfway through my comment - which was long, you know how loquacious I can be - I heard some clicking from the computed and it kicked me out.

    Sorry. So now its just: this is a good post, and I hope I'm writing indepth characters that touch the readers heart.


  15. Donna : A hint I found out the hard way. If I see I'm going long on a comment, I break it up by posting it into two separate comments. Since I've been doing that, I haven't lost any comments except to a stray little finger going zig when it should have gone zag.

  16. Golly! I'm hoping "man" is not alone - but shares this planet with all things living and breathing. I'd like to think that a mama otter tending her baby against the ravages of nature and humans have a soul of some kind too, as her baby does. I'm hoping a writer connects with these souls too - not stand alone against the elements but be part of it - of nature, of life.

    Take care

  17. Oooohhh, I loved this post! And I think you do really amazingly well at showing the conflict, the agony and the hope in your characters-it's why we keep coming back. These things are essential in creating a realness to the fiction and making us care for characters that only exist in our minds and souls. So Bravo to you!