Querulous Questions

Ever feel as if you live your life having to explain yourself to everyone else?

Decisions, actions, speech, beliefs — it’s all up for criticism and debate.

Political aside: What gives anyone — especially government, colleagues, mere acquaintances — the right, authority, or need to know everything about us? Is there anything personal anymore in this Orwellian world of satellites, drones, CCTV?

When someone asks impertinent questions of you, is your first reaction, “This person cares about me”? Or do you mentally apply any of the following epithets: nosy, rude, gossipy, out of line?

If knowledge is power, the more someone knows about you, the more power he has. There are people who must be “in the know” about everyone and everything. We’ve probably all learned long ago to recognize the work-place gossips and trouble-stirrers.

Despite knowing exactly what’s going on, are you compelled to respond? To play the game?

Why do we cede power to these people?

And what makes nosiness versus privacy a Penworthy topic?

As writers, we walk tightropes, balancing realism with fantasy, dialogue with prose, showing with telling. Yes, there are times when telling is more useful than showing, especially when the story portion we’d show is boring or nonessential for character or plot.

Still, knowing we walk these tightropes where balance is essential, do we also feel compelled to explain everything? That leaves little room for the readers’ imagination. We’re responsible for answering the questions we pose — that’s only being fair to the audience — but doing the readers’ thinking for them results in boring books.

One of the joys of reading is an engaged mind. The best books might even be called brain candy or literary feasts. They’re tasty and filling and yet leave us wanting more.

As writers, we pose questions in our novels — what if? what’ll happen next? why? how? who? — and readers turn the pages, seeking answers to those questions. That’s our power as writers.

In writing and in life, which questions will you answer, and which will you leave wide open and mysterious?

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