Sunday, August 31, 2014

Mourning is a Private Affair

Here's the hard cold fact. Death is a part of life. We will all go somehow at some time.  Loss and grief are also part of life. Try as we might, we can't avoid them either.

Robin Williams died on August 11, 2014, twenty days ago. Since most who did not personally know him have moved on, I thought it would be appropriate now to write about some impressions I had at the time.  I wasn't the only one who considered this.  Amy Webb wrote a piece for about it and she got me thinking about my own response to grief and social media.

When the announcement came about Williams' passing, I was immediately struck by how Twitter and Facebook went crazy with postings.Why? What were we sharing? Grief? Or a desire to be involved in a big news event? 

When we post about the loss of a loved one, what do we expect?  Is it fair to assume that everyone will grieve the same way we do? Do we really think that people we have never met care about our loss? Do we have a right to criticize how other people grieve?

Sometimes events should be private. The loss of someone we loved should be one of those times. I never want to rate the appropriateness of my grief by the number of likes on a Facebook posting. There is no possible way that a Facebook friend, who is often a writer or fan I don't know well if at all, can understand how I feel.  They are unique personalities unto themselves with different experiences and cultures. The way they handle loss will be different from the way I do.

A few years ago, my family suffered a great loss at the holiday season. Close friends rallied around. They telephoned, they took me to dinner, and they supported me as I struggled through the emotional jungle. There is no possible way a click or 140 characters can replace the level of caring I found in a crowded restaurant, a miniature Christmas tree, or someone going through bags of clothing with me.

Death is a deeply personal experience. When it enters your life, you will want to, but you won't be able to, whisk your feelings away with a click or a tweet. And if you try to do that, you will be left devoid of comfort. Social media is great for some things. It may make you feel a part of something important. But it's no substitute for holding onto your teddy bear, or your best friend, or your mate and sobbing the pain away.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Fantasy writer Lev Grossman wrote an article for the NY Times (read it here) in which he talked about how becoming a fantasy writer unleashed his creativity. He found his writing voice in the magical world.

Literary critics probably won't acknowledge that even the grandest fiction is, in a way, fantasy fiction. In order to create, writers go to a special spot in their imagination and it is from that place that their stories emerge.Whether writers create a town withering in the recession, send a boat down the Mississippi River, or fill a land with dragons, we mentally live in that world while we write about it.

I write murder mysteries. My heroine, Kyle Shannon, does not have physical form but she is very real to me. As I move her through the story, I fantasize about her. I feel her emotions. I hear her voice. I am aware of her hopes and dreams. What happens to her, happens to me, and then to my readers.

In creating Kyle's world, I examine my own. What she experiences is distilled from what happens around me. The great thing about being a fiction writer is that Kyle isn't bound by the constraints of the real world. She can survive on temp jobs. She can go places I would never go and she can know people I am not likely to meet.

No matter where a story is based or how the hero moves through it, fantasy plays a role. Relationships, wants, and needs form the centerpiece of all plots no matter where the story is set. A woman solving a murder, an explorer on Mars, or boy waving a wand each face a challenge and must somehow overcome it. The genre is where the writer finds a home but all fiction is fantasy and all writers live in a fantasy world.