The Call of the Wild: Fiction Writing
By Matt Robb
I believe it’s never too late in one’s life to begin writing fiction. I learned that lesson four years ago shortly after turning thirty. For me, the inciting incident occurred one brisk October evening when a friend lightheartedly challenged me to participate with him in an annual writing event called National Novel Writing Month; the objective of which is to turn out fifty-thousand words of first-draft fiction during the month of November. Thrilling, exhausting, and rewarding are three words that best describe the event.
Flash-forward to today and you’ll find that I call myself a fiction writer. Why? Because I write. I write in the evenings when my wife goes to bed early. I write on the weekends when my wife sleeps in late. I daydream about writing while working as an information technology analyst. I jot down story and character ideas into my smart phone precisely when inspiration strikes. Most importantly, though, I schedule time to write.
How I became a fiction writer puzzles me. I can’t say I was shaped or influenced in any way by talented authors like C.S. Forester or Ian Fleming. In fact, I only recall partially reading three books for entertainment as an adolescent: A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, The Call of the Wild by Jack London, and Henry Huggins by Beverly Cleary.
The bulk of my fiction reading, err… skimming, occurred in high school with novels like The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway, and To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. I became very proficient reading only the first sentence of each paragraph of several chapters while snacking on chocolate Tastykakes in the school cafeteria.
My desire to read for entertainment increased somewhat in my college years and throughout my twenties, albeit works of non-fiction like biographies, business books, and software language instructional books.
So how is it that a thirty-four year old adult who rarely read a fiction book in his life comes to call himself a fiction writer? Because to me, I discovered that writing is a fine art.
Throughout my life fine art has always been a constant. I’ve always enjoyed photography, detailed pen-and-ink drawing, and performing in stage plays. I realized that fiction writing is just another form of fine art. It’s about taking a blank page and inserting just the right words to invoke a specific feeling, either from you or from others. Ultimately, writing fiction is all about capturing life and emotion, right there in black and white.
Unlike many fine arts, getting started in fiction writing is easy. At the very basic you just need a pen, a notebook, and your imagination. There’s no complicated or lengthy set-up or clean-up effort, and you can do it almost anywhere, even when you only have as few as five minutes available to work on your art. I think that’s one of the selling points that appeals to me as I get older.
Today I frequently read fiction novels with an appreciation of the painstaking detail that went into creating them. I allow myself to get immersed into the action as the author intended. I marvel at a particular turn of prose. Not unlike Buck at the end of The Call of the Wild, I realize my old life prior to writing fiction is a thing of the past. I am now a fiction writer.