By Eleni Papanou
This is part two of the Therapeutic Benefits of Visionary Fiction Series. In part one, we discussed recognition from the reader’s perspective. In this week’s installment, we’ll focus on it from the author’s perspective.
Authors have their moments of recognition during the writing process. This phase is important to many of them. I asked some of my author friends to discuss their own experience with the recognition while writing their books. Following are their responses.
Margaret Duarte Sometimes recognition for the author comes in unique ways as expressed from the point of view of Marjorie Veil Sunwalker, the protagonist in the Enter the Between Series.
“Margaret Duarte, the writer of this novel, believes she has created me. She believes she has made up the events and details of my journey. What she doesn’t realize is that I have been with her for a long, long time. She was only an instrument, my interpreter.”
When it finally hit me that I needed to write my own fiction in order to open up to, expand, and maybe even someday complete my spiritual journey, I knew my work would be different from any fiction I’d read up to that time. I didn’t have the genre vocabulary I have now and had definitely never heard of the term “visionary fiction,” but I knew it would include a plot and characters beyond the experience of the five senses and would help me delve into the questions/mysteries that had nagged me since I left childhood behind. “Who am I?” “What am I doing here?” “What can I do to make this world a better place?”
As I began to write, a whole new world opened up to me made up of nonfiction writers such as: Thomas Merton, Jack Kornfield, Aldous Huxley, Roger Walsh, Abraham H. Maslow, Paul Tillich, Jane Katra and Russell Targ, Sam Keen, Eckhart Tolle, Matthew Fox, Wayne Teasdall, Hal Zina Bennett, Shakti Gawain, Jonathan H. Ellerby. And the list goes on.
Murray Morison In writing my first novel the key ideas for the story have often come to me in the wee small hours. Characters present themselves. Time Sphere has one major strand in the story involving Ancient Greece and I had the idea to include a little known but remarkable Greek woman called Theano. She is a real person who may well have come from Crete, where I live. Although the main focus is on her younger brother Dimitris, Theano is interesting because she was a priestess of Apollo at Delphi. It was there she met with Pythagoras, the great sage and mathematician. Even though separated in age by many decades, they married and had four children. Amazingly, at Pythagoras’s death, Theano became the leader of his School in Crotona. I was at a meditation meeting in Crete and had put out a few of my leaflets about my book. A woman I had only met once before was there, having been back to her home in Norway for many months. She asked about the book. I started telling how it relates to Crete. The whole atmosphere changed. It turned out she had a deep belief that she had been Theano in a previous life. This woman is in no way ‘flaky’. It was just a statement of fact. That was a big ‘ah ha’ for me because very few people even know about Theano. I think both my new friend and I felt as though something of deep significance had occurred. As she said to my wife and I later in the week when we had a meal in a distant but wonderful mountain taverna in Crete, “no meeting like this is by chance, we are karmically linked. It’s a past life thing.” Well you can never prove something like that, but it did and does feel that way. Time Sphere by Murray Morison is published by Lodestone Books and available from Amazon.
Sandy Nathan When I write, at least the initial burst comes out as a gestalt – a whole delivered as an explosion from my mind/soul. I don’t think anything at this point; I’m emptying. All the material is familiar to me; the core dump is me. My psyche. All my complexes and glories are rendered whole. On the next go round, when the words are on the page, I’ll look at characters and see if they seem real. Does what they do and say make sense as a coherent whole? Is the interaction between characters natural and what people would actually do/say? I don’t concentrate on issues per se. I mostly concentrate on having it feel real and the language delivering the message. Of course, everything I write about boils down to a battle between good and evil or a character developing as a person. The issues are embedded. All of these stages happen so fast and so much as a whole that I don’t break them apart. I’m more interested in the work’s impact not the reader: does this scene move my reader in the direction I want him/her to go? Does the book achieve its goal? Which is usually a transcendent experience and personal awakening. Maybe I develop personal insights while writing, but more likely, the insights I want to communicate were already there. What I want is the sharpening and communication. So, yes, in the articulation of a story or character, I do get the insight clearer. Personal website
Vic Smith Since my first novel, The Anathemas, took a good portion on my current lifetime, I had the benefit (and frustration) of several levels of recognition, reflected in the various versions (approximately 10 major ones) as I went from my early 20s, when I wrote some sketches of the two historical characters, the sixth-century Byzantine Emperor Justinian and his Empress Theodora, to my early 60s, when the novel was deemed finished enough to publish. When I first started the book, which eventually became a novel about reincarnation and the way that ancient teaching was declared heretical to Christianity, I was barely curious about past lives; it was a New Age toy, forbidden previously, that I was playing around with. That Justinian could sway the Church to alter doctrine to his political advantage seemed a grand enough theme for a novel.
It was only after investing considerable time into research and false starts that I began to wonder what it was that drew me to these characters and this subject rather than to a myriad of others, many easier and more popular. Merely asking myself that question and realizing that I was going to have to dig way deeper than usual for a satisfactory answer was a key instance of recognition: I had to acknowledge that there was some extra-conscious principle at work in my writing.
I had steeped myself sufficiently in romantic poetry in school and written enough passing fair verse to be intellectually aware of intuition and its representation as the alleged Muse. But a novel, which requires immersion into complexity of character and plot to carry the story for so long a haul, takes too much time and attention to fuel the effort with a superficiality. Those reflective questions came again and again: Where is this stuff coming from? I learned that the Muse, like Heinlein’s moon, was a very harsh mistress, not to be trifled with. So much as a peek into the realm beyond ordinary consciousness invites all kinds of influences that baffle the intellect but capture the imagination, inserting themselves not only into one’s fiction but into one’s life. (For those interested in a detailed report of a specific instance of this, see The Parapet page on my website.)
By the way, recognition is a front-loaded word. It’s not cognition (the first time) but re-cognition, which, like reincarnation, indicates that we came through this doorway before and are now doing it again. (Website)
There have been many instances where I’ve had recognition, especially, with my first book Unison. Similar to Margaret Duarte’s experience with her heroine, Marjorie, recognition didn’t immediately hit. During the writing of the first draft, I arrived at a scene where a character, who was only intended to have a small part in the story, told me he was so much more than I’d imagined him to be. He changed the direction of the plot and led me to an ultimate reality, beyond the materialists’ idea of reality. He’d also turned what was supposed to be one book into a series! I know this sounds like hyperbole, but through my writing experiences, I’ve learned that the imagination connects us to something beyond materialism, something that’s equally as valid, and dare I say, even more so. Some people might call the musings of an artist’s imagination nothing more than a fantasy, but what I experienced was a strong sense of recognition. It was like Vic mentioned—a doorway that I’d been through before and passed through again…many times before. Personal website
Click here for part 3