Thursday, April 10, 2014

I: Writers on Writing - Washington Irving

Today's Writer on Writing -Washington Irving


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About the Writer

Washington Irving is best known for his stories The Legend of Sleepy Hollow and Rip Van Winkle. He was an early 19th century American author, historian, essayist, biographer and diplomat. It is said that Irving perfected the short story and was credited as the first American Man of Letters, and the first to earn his living solely by his pen.

His influence on the literary world and American culture stretches beyond the two works he is most known for. To further explore this, I recommend a read through Irving's Wikipedia page



My Thoughts About Irving's Quote

While I could not locate any documented interviews with Washington Irving and his feelings on writing, there were numerous quotes attributed him that gave me a sense of what level of importance he placed upon this work he spent so much of his life doing. My favorite, of course, is the one I have selected to highlight for the day,

“For my part, I love to give myself up to the illusion of poetry. A hero of fiction that never existed is just as valuable to me as a hero of history that existed a thousand years ago.” 


As I read this aloud to my husband I was struck by its simplest truth. For my part, as a reader, what is the difference between a fictional character and the story of some great man that lived in a world and time so far removed from me it might as well have been an invention of another's mind? Of course, I perceive an extra value in any story that has been deemed to be "based on a true story," however, the lessons learned and the heroism displayed by the characters of fiction has moved me just as much. In fact, I may even be able to argue that they have been able to move me even more because I had the ability to take full ownership of their trials and tribulations in the sense that fiction allows me to believe that their journey could have just as easily have been mine if their fictional, fantastical world came to life around me. 

The beautiful thing about this quote is the realization of the impact of our creations. Our characters are real. Our characters can teach. Our readers hold them close and wrap themselves in their stories in ways we may not have always intended. Once we share them with the world, that is where their lives begin and flourish, to be interpreted by the masses in whichever way they see fit.

Can you think of a hero of fiction whose journey has impacted you as strongly (maybe even more so) than a historical figure?

Does Irving's quote make you feel any more pressure about the characters you create? 



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3 comments:

  1. I think this is why I love Historical Fiction. Just taking the "based on a true story" and tweaking it so it sweeps you up, eats you whole. I love that. Great quote!

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  2. I like that quote. It is showing how important writing can be to a person. Even if the story isn't set in the real world, it can have real world effects on the reader.

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  3. I love this line best of all: "I may even be able to argue that they have been able to move me even
    more because I had the ability to take full ownership of their trials
    and tribulations in the sense that fiction allows me to believe that
    their journey could have just as easily have been mine if their fictional, fantastical world came to life around me."

    I may quote you sometime on this. I had never thought of this aspect before. I mean, as I am writing, I feel what the characters are feeling, but I never realized that in a sense their journey could be mine. Fabulous point!

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