Whose life is it anyway?

If I asked you who owns your life, you would probably reply, almost as a reflex, that you own your life and no one can tell you otherwise. It is an empowering thought and a troubling delusion.
Troubling? How can the autonomy of the individual be seen as troubling when it is one of the cornerstones of how humanity sees itself? Yet this is not true. The accurate version of this statement is to say that the autonomy of the individual is one of the cornerstones of how human beings see themselves. The difference in words is only slight, but the implications are great.

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Trying to Stay Afloat in a Sea of Words

Writing a novel, no matter how long, is like swimming up and down an empty pool. You can decide how many lengths you want to swim on any given day, your short term goal of the opposite end of the pool is always in sight, and no one will get in your way. Once you have swum all the lengths necessary to produce a completed story that is fit for sale, you must venture into open water, where you will find none of the comforts of your private pool.

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How did my journey change me?

A long time ago, I heard that the creation of a story is a journey for the writer, often more so than it is for the reader who only experiences the finished text. This was true in my case. As mentioned in my last post, I started my story with the premise that a man was dying, and to that I attached the belief that a person should be allowed to die on their own terms. This correlated with my view of myself and how I hope to both live my life and face my death. As such, my first attempt at a plot was built on the premise that assisted dying is a worthy option and my protagonist should struggle to assert his right to die at a time and in a manner of his own choosing. So far, so self-assured, I thought, but thoughts can be a slippery things and can lead you down winding roads to unexpected destinations.

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Why did I write a story about assisted dying?

The scarcity with which the topic of assisted dying is mentioned in written fiction can be interpreted in different ways. Authors look to make a living from their writing, and so wish to produce what are deemed to be the choicest tales. It can also be said that authors write what they like to read, so their lack of satisfaction with the last few books they have read in a particular genre may inspire them to write their own story, which will be free of all the irritating aspects of other people’s work.

The Long Drop to Short Text

Every author who seeks to independently publish their own work must face a transition from one end of the writing spectrum to the other, from many thousands of words, all arranged into punctuated sentences, to the 140 character limit of a tweet. After composing a symphony of words in isolation, you must find a few short notes that will be heard within a cacophony of constant noise.

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Chapter Headings – Am I being unfashionable?

Chapter headings seem to appear less nowadays than in the books I read at school, but I would rather not make a definitive claim about that because I also remember summers being longer back then. I have always liked each chapter in a story to have a title that gives an identity to the forthcoming portion of the overall text and invites me to read on and discover the reason behind the headline.

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The Value of a Worthwhile Story

The inherent value of a worthwhile story rests on the idea that a good storyteller shines a light on aspects of the human condition that most of us prefer not to discuss in our everyday lives. Yet if no one talks about such things, they do not vanish, they fester beneath the surface and affect our lives, both directly and indirectly. For example, the debilitating nature of depression hinders anyone from writing about it while smothered by its darkness. Even afterwards, when some light has returned, it may be too difficult to write down a personal memoir, partly due to the nature of the recollection and partly due to a fear of the stigma that is still attached to mental illness in a world where we should know better.

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Forwards Not Backwards

The basic tenet of writing fiction is to “show not tell”, so authors paint scenes with words instead of just explaining the next part of the story. This is solid advice that comes as close to being a golden rule as anyone can expect in the fluid realm of storytelling, where an empty page plus some words becomes a narrative that provokes a dream in the mind of a reader.

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The Value of a Good Sentence

Sentence fragments. More common now. Overused?
Their place? End of a paragraph. Closing exclamation.
Much use anywhere else? Not really.

People converse in sentences, proper and complete, either long or short, blunt or sharp, as dictated by the content and the tone of what they want to say. Sentence fragments are dropped into casual speech because a level of familiarity already exists between the speaker and the listener, but the core of the dialogue is still comprised of sentences. When a narrator is talking to a reader, the need for good sentences is greater because the two participants in the conveyance of the fictional dream do not know one another. There is no level of familiarity that permits sentences to be chopped up and served as quick bites of text, yet there appears to be a growing trend to do so, as if the proper sentence is somehow too safe and sterile to reflect the edginess of the author’s cutting prose.

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