We’re in the business of creating

One of my favorite scenes from any book ever is the scene in The Magician’s Nephew when we first meet Aslan.  The first sign of him is a deep, resonant voice, singing a song, and Digory doesn’t know the words, but he feels its meaning.  Then as Aslan comes out of the darkness, his singing brings all things into being.  I get chills every time I try to imagine being Digory in that scene.

Another scene that enchants me is in The Silmarillion when the Elves first come into being.  Tolkien describes how they all sort of awake around this pool, and they are lying in the soft grass staring up at the sky, and the first things they see are the stars, and Tolkien says this is why the Elves love the starlight so much.  The serenity of the scene is wonderful.

These are both creation moments in great stories, but there’s something interesting about both of them.  Beautiful and engaging as they are, they aren’t really what hooks you into the story in the first place.  In fact, if you never read those scenes, you could still enjoy the main storyline they are launching.  You could read all of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe and its sequels without ever knowing just how Aslan made Narnia.  You can thoroughly enjoy The Lord of the Rings without a clue who Eru is, or Aule, how the Elves or Dwarves or Men came to be, and why Sarumon is so blasted full of himself.  

I will say that knowing those creation accounts in those worlds does make the experience richer.  It adds to the fascination, for me, of seeing what was and what it was meant to be, and how it came to where it is when the action starts.  But even if you don’t care for reading into the history of a story that way, the fact that such a back story exists is what provides the depth and richness that makes the action part of the story so engaging.

That is why we, as writers, need to be about the business of creating.  It isn’t enough to simply jump into the middle of a story with no mind for how it came to be, how the characters got there, and why the conflict exists.  We must fashion the world and its players before we can set them loose within it.  Even if our readers never get to read the story of how this came to be, we had better know it, otherwise our stories will lack a depth and richness that our readers crave.

There is another reason why being in the business of creating is so meaningful, though.  I believe we were created to create.  I have touched on this before, but I think it is worth reiterating.

God created us in his image.  While his image ultimately consists of the perfection of knowing his will, desiring his will, and doing his will, I believe that in a wider sense, his image also consists of the conditions in which that perfect knowledge, desire, and ability rests.  That is, knowing his will requires that we have intellect and wisdom.  Desiring his will requires volition, emotion, and awareness of relationship.  Doing his will requires initiative and creativity.  So while we lost the perfection in the Fall, and thus lost the true image of God, we retain certain elements that are reflective of his nature, which allowed us to reflect his perfection.  In Christ, we are a new creation, being renewed in the image of God, like a painting, tragically and horribly disfigured beyond repair, yet miraculously restored by one who transcends natural ability.

So, all that is to say that I believe that part of God’s intention in creating us was that we would follow him by creating.  We don’t bring something out of nothing, as God did when he created the world, but we use the things he has given us to craft new things from the minds he has given us.  And we see this happening in so many different ways.  The woodworker crafts and builds. The gardener designs arrangements.  The cook combines flavors.  The artist mixes colors into picture.  And the writer uses words to create new worlds and stories within them.

It should be no surprise I’m partial to that last one.  And with good reason.  After all, when God created the world, he chose to do so through his almighty Word.  When he wanted to communicate his grace to us, he did so by giving us the Word.  When he wanted to save us, he did so by sending his Word made flesh.  It seems God has a thing for words.

Am I saying, then, that words are the finest medium for creativity that could exist?  Pretty much.

Well, maybe not, but you can get much awesomer than words.

Okay, well, maybe woodworking is on par with it.

Okay, maybe I wouldn’t shouldn’t go quite that far. But I do feel that words can communicate things that almost no other medium can. And yeah, I know, you could say the same about other mediums, fine, whatever. Word are where it’s at, man!

Alright, back on track…

We create to reflect our Creator by the very act of our creating.  When we create worlds and characters to live in them, it isn’t so much that we’re trying to take the place of God as it is like a child who comes into the bathroom and plays at shaving while his dad shaves next to him.  We see, we imitate, yes imperfectly, but delightfully as well.  We do so to be closer to him, and to do what he does.

We are in the business of creating.

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5 responses to “We’re in the business of creating

  1. “That is why we, as writers, need to be about the business of creating. It isn’t enough to simply jump into the middle of a story with no mind for how it came to be, how the characters got there, and why the conflict exists. We must fashion the world and its players before we can set them loose within it. Even if our readers never get to read the story of how this came to be, we had better know it, otherwise our stories will lack a depth and richness that our readers crave.”

    I dunno… I agree AND disagree with this. If I’m writing a novel or work of similar size, yes, I generally need to do exploration of the setting, the characters, and their history so I know how each one ticks.

    But what about for microfiction? Sure, I’ll generally know more about what’s going on than the reader, but how deep do we need to go for a story 110 words long?

    • Also there’s the “crossgenre,” if you will, of fan fiction. In that arena creating isn’t quite as necessary.

      In a way you could say that my Serial Saturday posts are DnD fan fiction. I’ll be honest, I haven’t put a lot of thought into the creation story of the DnD world The Tales Krimm takes place in.

      • Sometimes it’s fun to fly by the seat of the pants — I did that in the first draft of a novel, and then went back between drafts to figure out the backstories of the world, the nations, and the characters. Second draft, every character was much more defined, but the general plot remained pretty much the same!

      • Alright, so, I can concede that in some cases, we don’t necessarily create the whole world. But I would argue that we fashion a setting that works according to rules as we understand them, and we fashion characters in that setting and we direct the circumstances that impact them. That’s all creating right there. Certainly, when we write into a world, as you are, Ken, someone else has done the creating for us, at least to a certain extent. However, you might still create the dungeon, or the landscape, at the very least the characters. All that requires that we have a certain understanding of what is behind the story beyond what the reader is going to have, because if we don’t have that, we don’t have much of a story.

      • I’ll agree! And in general it’s far better to have a far deeper understanding of the characters, etc., than the reader. It’s just always fun to point out the exceptions. 🙂

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