Thursday, May 21, 2009

What Do You Know?

By Nichole Giles

The other day I met a good friend for lunch. We went to this wonderful, restored historic village that has delis, restaurants and shops. After we ate, we wandered around the shops, chatting and enjoying the afternoon. Eventually, we ended up in this fabulous little place packed to overflowing with fantastical wares. I soaked it all in, immediately falling in love with the fairy section, then wandering into the dragon one, then the pirate, and…well, you get the idea.

This shop had a little bit of everything—books, music, fairy traps, statuary, trinkets, smells, jewelry, fantasy style clothing—really, truly a taste of a fantasy world. Upon entering, a woman even offered us a sprinkling of fairy dust—at which point she stamped a silver star in glitter and pressed it on my cheek.

The woman I was with is the one person from my non-writing life who actually believes in fantastical things (well, not including my kids) like fairies and dragons and magic. But she isn’t a writer, and thus, not associated with so many fantasy believers as me. As we left the store, she asked, “Do you think the people in that store actually believe in those things they’re selling? Because most people don’t, you know? To them it’s just fun to make believe.”

I thought for a minute before answering, but when I did, my answer was honest. “I think they must. One thing I’ve learned from writing is that people truly believe in the things they write, including these fantastical creatures and made-up worlds. An author has to believe in the world they’ve created, because if they don’t, their readers won’t either. So, in order to run a store like that—one that sells fairy catchers, fabulously embroidered velvet capes, and pirate maps—they’d have to.”

I’ve thought more about our conversation since then, and I realize how lucky I am to know so many people who believe in things they can’t see. Things that others might laugh at or consider childish. How boring my life would be without these things or these people. And how nice it is to know others understand what’s going through my head.

We’re taught to write what we know, and so we do, and look at what comes out of us. Time-travel, and other dimensions, worlds of magical creatures, magic, wizards, witches, and other things that have yet to be discovered or invented. Have we ever experienced these things? Not likely. But somewhere deep down inside ourselves, we know, and that’s how we’re able to write them.

Okay, I get that not every author writes fantasy, and that’s perfectly okay. Romance writers know romance—the ins and outs and importance of the process. And life wouldn’t be the same without romance in it—romance in itself is a fantasy for some people. Historical fiction authors know history, and how to make it interesting through fiction. How to put us into a time other than our own (something similar to time travel). Humor authors know how to make us laugh—even when it includes creating images that stretch the truth beyond belief.

There are lots of other genres that I won’t even try to list. The bottom line is that at some point, in some way, all writing is fantastic and includes the unseen, unheard, and unbelieved. Does that mean we can’t write about something that lives in our hearts? No way. That’s why those things are there. To write and be shared with the world. Through our words and our writing, the rest of the world will have the opportunity to know what’s in our hearts and feel the truth of it beating inside them as well.

That’s why we write. It’s what we know.


David J. West said...

This was my favorite post you have done (that I have read). I wholeheartedly agree with you on believing in what you write regardless of others opinions. It all has to mean something special to the artist.

For me I guess I know History and Fantasy and I hope people aren't too bothered that I enjoy mixing them.

LexiconLuvr said...

I loved this post--the fact that fantasy is real to people. It is for me and is only natural that it's my chosen genre. Those little whispers of my heart make up my fantasical worlds. (P.S. I love that store!)

Evelyn Curtis said...

I would love to go to that store!! More info please!! My kids would love it just as much as I would! :D

Nichole Giles said...

David, I happen to love historical fantasy. Have you ever read the "Hallowmere" series? Awesome example of this type of combination, and great story.

LT, I think that must be why so many of us write fantasy. Secretly, we're all dreamers who believe in things others find silly or unreal. Fortunately, there are enough of us to buy a whole lot of books--so we'll keep busy writing. =)

Evelyn, I don't know the name of the store, but it was in Gardener Historic Village in Sandy Utah. Next time I'm there, I'll be sure to notice the name so I can pass it on. (If you go, I'm sure someone in one of the other shops can direct you to the right place.)

Thanks for commenting everyone!


Jaime Theler said...

What a great post! And I'm also glad that I know so many other people that would be thrilled to have a fairy pop out from behind a tree at the park (and secretly hope it happens).

Nichole Giles said...

He he. Jamie, I'm learning more and more every day how many people actually DO hope for something like that. It's amazing and validating and so much fun.

Thanks for commenting.