I was meant to fly. Have you ever felt this way? Have you ever seen people around you – friends or family – live their lives in such a way that screams out… “I WAS MEANT TO FLY!” Maybe they show it in different ways. Maybe they pursue career, ambition, pleasure, money, or power. But they want their lives to mean something, they want to rise above. And yet we all remain tethered to Earth.
For writers, this is the crucial starting point: To write the unseen we must first understand human nature. It seems anticlimactic and yet there it is: those who see themselves and others clearly, will more readily grasp the wonders of the unseen realm. That’s because invisible, supernatural forces act on our human nature all day, every day, 24-hours a day. The soul’s desire to fly will cause us to ride on the back of one of these supernatural forces, for good or evil.
Author Stephenie Meyer understands this concept. Her successful Twilight series follows main character Bella as she falls in love with a vampire and maneuvers friendship with a werewolf. Like us, Bella is human. Compared with Edward and Jacob, her body is frail and vulnerable. And while millions of readers identify with her humanity, we also identify with her desire for transcendence, to be something more than human whether through love or immortality. Meyer effectively extends the tension throughout the whole series because Bella is a human who feels certain she was meant to fly and yet she remains tethered to Earth.
This is a necessary tension. When writing, we must tether our characters in soul and place; our characters must be grounded. Even fantasy writers need some level of grounding. In the Lord of the Rings, for example, Frodo and Sam often remember the Shire, their hometown that seems so far away in light of their supernatural journey to destroy the Ring. We identify with Frodo and Sam when we’re reminded that they are just regular hobbits from a common Shire, called to a dangerous battle in a strange land overrun with strange beasts.
All the great stories highlight this tension, because it is the story of humanity itself.
To write the unseen, start with what is seen.