Wish List (Back on the Chain Gang)

Well, the blog chain has swung my way once again.

This chain’s topic was selected by Sandra Ulbrich Almazan.

Terri Rainer made the most recent post on this subject. She also wins hands down for most gratuitous hottie picture, so if you don’t go check it out you have only yourself to blame. 😉 Mary Lindsey will be up next.

The topic this round:

What is the role of wish fulfillment in fiction? What personal wishes do you want your stories to fulfill? Are they the same ones you want to read about? How do our fictitious wishes affect our everyday wishes?

Well, I already talked in a previous blog chain post about my specific reasons for writing about triumphing over a traumatic childhood in The Edge of Memory, so I’m going to take this post on in “Big Picture” mode.

My favorite Tori Amos song is “Tear in Your Hand” which includes the line, “You know, you’re full of wish.”

I am. Absolutely full of wish.

I’ve had ideas for stories forever, but I only started writing novels a little over a year ago. So what was the catalyst?

Wish fulfillment. Or more accurately, the lack thereof.

Like, oh… everyone else in the world, my life has not turned out exactly the way I thought it would. And like other reasonable folks, I’ve realized it’s silly to expect it to. As John Lennon (Sandra’s muse) once said, “Life is what happens while you’re busy making other plans.”

I’m a physician and the director of my department. I am used to taking control of situations, whether that means managing patient care, arranging on-call schedules, or running a code in an emergency. I thrive in those situations. I’m a problem-solver and a take-charge gal.

I struggle when I feel powerless to fix a situation. Among other complications in the last few years, a car crash forever changed the life I planned. I wish I could have stopped the other driver from running the red light. I wish everyone was healed and pain-free. But I can’t make that happen.

So the catalyst for me to start writing grew from my desire for control… to put my characters through all sorts of stress and know for a fact I could pull them through to a happy ending.

That’s why the world loves a happy ending. People need to believe wish-fulfillment is possible.

And that is the spine of every story really… to engage the reader to the point that (s)he WISHES for an outcome for the characters, and to fulfill that wish in some way. Even if not quite in the way the reader expects.

So, that’s my response. Probably not really the way Sandra intended, but you can’t always get what you want.

No matter how hard you wish for it. 😉


9 Responses

  1. excellent post! as always 🙂 You are right. That is one of the things I love about reading. The happy endings…the characters getting their wish fulfillment. I try very hard to stay away from real life books that are full of pain and nastiness that don’t end well. Life is depressing enough and when I read, I want to read about people who are able to pull themselves out of sticky situations and get their happy endings. That is one of the things I like about writing too. Like you 🙂 I like the control. I like being able to push my characters around, make bad things happen, but know that at the end of the day (or book I should say) they are going to be happy 🙂 That is what makes both reading and writing a fun escape for me 🙂

  2. I am soooo not a huggy person, but after reading this post, I just wanted to give ya a big ole hug anyway.

    I know I started writing again during a very bad time in my life too, and it does tend to give us control over something, when everything else seems to be crazy.

    And as for that picture…it took more time finding just the right one than it did to write the post! I figured most women wouldn’t care what the heck I wrote if it was a hot enough guy…

    🙂 Terri

  3. Wow, Heather, you’ve hit the nail on the head here. Like most people (I’m sure), my life is not exactly what I had planned either. I began writing for much the same reason you did–so I could control something I had no control over. To fulfill the wishes in my characters lives that I couldn’t have in my own. You are the queen today. Great job!

  4. Your post is poignant. The part that struck a big chord with me with regards to writing was how you began writing in the quest for wish fulfillment. I guess I did too, come to think of it.

    And I can also relate to dream lives that shatter into so many shards, leaving you searching for a way to build something new. Sometimes it feels like the only place I know I can have certain things is on paper. In some ways I guess writing helps me not be so bitter about what might have been.

  5. I got into the Beatles after I lost my job, and the Beatles led me to write. So you could say I too started to write during a time when real life wasn’t going “right.” I think you may be on to something when you say controlling a fictional world fulfills an author’s wish for control. Good post.

  6. Wow, great post. I almost feel like I don’t have a comment worthy of it.

    Reading everyones’ comments it seems that you hit upon something very true – writing is a way to control a life, in a way that we can’t have control over our own.

  7. That’s very self-aware of you. Really insightful.

  8. Super post! Writing is a control issue…absolutely! If you can’t control yours, you have to control somebody’s. And in the case of writing, that me be a character or the entire story-world.

    Life isn’t all rose petals, but sometimes the thorns make great a great quill!


  9. Love Tori Amos. You are full of wish. And full of wise. Excellent post, Heather.

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