I have spent much of my life reading and every time I finish a good book, I think, “I want to be able to write like that.”
I like when the words, like stars, twinkle in the darkness. When they take hold of me and let me soar over the city like Superman did for Lois Lane. When the words dance and twirl and twist on the page. When words mesmerize me like a snake charmer’s flute. I want my words to touch the sky and whisper in my reader’s ear and taste like that first cup of coffee in the morning.
I love a good story that makes me believe the people in it are real whether they are or not. I also love non-fiction and books about history that tell stories about people who are real. I am endlessly fascinated with stories of other people’s lives whether real or fictional.
I want to make the characters in my head come to life on the page. I want to make my readers care about the characters I create. I want them to feel their isolation, their fears, their misguided hopefulness, and their strange quirks of thought and action. I want to write like that. I want my readers to care about Jimmywayne when he’s naked and speeding away from the cops in an old Chevy convertible. I want them to wonder what Elm Mott is going to do next after being discovered by one of the church ladies with his pants down and a Playboy magazine in his hand while standing in front of a makeshift altar filled with religious artifacts. I want my reader to wonder who Clara is preparing a meal for and who is in the closet under the stairs.
I want to tell a story that will keep my reader awake all night because they must find out what happened, who the killer was, whether the lovers stay together or separate, whether the hero completes his journey. I want to take my reader down that beaten path, to the top of that mountain, to the howling night in a broken-down car on a deserted highway, to the heart-stopping moment when they must choose life or death.
I want my reader to feel something when they read what I say: to feel that here is someone who understands me, someone who knows what I have been through, who cares about the things I care about. I want my words to let them taste a lemon sky or feel the rhythm of the music in my words, to feel the tears of relief to find that someone else understands.
Good writing can make me read something that normally does not interest me, though there isn’t much that doesn’t interest me. Good writers make me want to learn more about the bones found in a pit where archeologists are digging, to learn why people follow a Jim Jones or David Koresh to their deaths. I want to know what life was like in the years before Europeans destroyed the world of Native Americans. I want to know what life is like for Native Americans living in Oakland, California today. I want to know why things like the Salem Witch Trials happened. I want to write like that when I write about history.
I want to write like that to help people improve their personal relationships. I want to encourage people to be kinder to others, to recover from depression and self-hatred, to leave harmful relationships. I want to create a community online and a sense of belonging for those of us who have always felt like outsiders, a welcoming space for those who might never meet in real life, but can meet in this space called Medium.com no matter where they are.
I want to write like that. I want to give people a reason to come back and read more. I want to do for others what so many writers have done for me.
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