What are a writer’s tools? Does he have any? If he does, then how does he use them?
There are three tools for writers, and arguably a fourth.
First, and perhaps most obviously, is a blank page. The page is the gateway to stories; how can something be written down if there are no papers on which one can write? A blank page set in front of an author is like a blank canvas in front of a painter; a blank graph in front of an engineer; a set of pins in front of a bowler; a fresh, untouched slope in front of a snowboarder; a clean rink in front of an ice dancer. These are the things that authors can make out a simple piece of paper.
The second is obvious as well; the pen. Without a pen, stories have no place to go, and never end up on the page in front of the author. The pen allows the words to flow from author to reader. The pen is to the author as a brush is to a painter; as a ruler is to an engineer; as a bowling ball is to a bowler; as a snowboard is to a snowboarder; as skates are to an ice dancer. Without the pen, the words remain unwritten.
The third is the imagination. Without the imagination, the words are dull and lifeless. The page never fills up. The stories are meaningless and the morals moot points. The emotional draw of the story is completely unrealistic and entices no one. Love stories are sappy, predictable, and vapid. Adventures are silly, meaningless romps through fairy tale meadows with no monsters and no life at all. Horror becomes nothing more frightening than breaking a nail or losing car keys. Science fiction is only as fantastic as watching water turn to ice. Fantasy is all about a dream some boring nobody had that involved nothing more fantasy-esque than watching yourself in the mirror. Nothing is real; nothing has meaning; nothing pulls on your heartstrings. Imagination gives life, meaning, and emotion to even the most boring of story lines. A single moment infused with imagination becomes the most memorable occasion in the world.
The fourth tool–the one that perhaps not everyone thinks of–is the author’s life. Name one author who has not, in some way, written himself into a story. Charles Dickens did. Jane Austen did. Every author inserts themselves into the story in some way. Whether this is through the main character or a minor role that is barely noticeable, it is so. Whether they create for themselves their own life story or perhaps just elements of their personality, an author’s life shines through the pages just as if they were reading it to you, getting choked up when their favorite character died, or when the hero finally married his true love, or when the villain seems to be winning. If you can hear the author laughing at a bad joke the heroine’s brother tells at a fancy party, then you know the author is in the story. If you can see the hint of a smile on the edge of the villain’s lips as he is about to execute his master plan, the author is there. If you can feel the love in the hero’s eyes as tears fall onto his dead bride’s face, if you are afraid when he roars to the heavens, if you get jumpy and adrenaline pumps through you when he pledges revenge for his love’s death, then you know: the author is there, and he or she is just as drawn to the characters as you. If there are tear stains marking the page when the heroine draws her last, shaky breath and whispers, ‘I love you,’ then you are weeping right along with the author.
Trust me, I’m a writer.
These are the tool that writers are able to use. Through any combination of these things–paper, pen, imagination, and life–a writer becomes what he or she was always meant to be; one of God’s mini-creators.
[p.s.–don’t steal my story ideas. ;)]