Posted by: Sally Ingraham | February 11, 2008

Solitary Fiction

I found an interesting thought in the book Fifty Days of Solitude by Doris Grimbach. While spending fifty days in almost total silence and solitude in Sargentville, Maine, the author reads a lot, and these words she discovers spoke to me as well:

“When [people are] there for you in the flesh, the real world is sufficient. When you’re alone, you have to invent imaginary characters. You need them for companionship.” – Peter Aaron

This expresses more completely a thought I have almost arrived at a couple of times – the answer to my question, “Why can’t I write fiction anymore?” When I was younger, living at home, tucked away in my basement room, with few friends and a sheltered view of the world, it was almost effortless for me to come up with characters to populate my fantastic stories.

Look Both WaysOnce I left home and ventured out into the real world, met a great many interesting people, and was hit by a flood of experiences, I no longer needed my imaginary people and places to satisfy me. Real people, and real places occupied my mind, leaving little room for the fictional characters of my stories. For several years I didn’t even miss those characters.

Now I have fond memories of them, and sometimes wish that I might conjure up new characters. I am still too much interested in the real world though, and rightly so. I am writing again, but now I am writing about the things that actually happen to me. I am my favorite character!

It’s all research though, and an expansion of my craft. To be as fully alive in the real world as I can be now, will allow me to return to my imaginary places with more knowledge and wisdom and a greater ability to visualize my characters.

Perhaps for me, as for Doris Grumbach, “solitude is the proper condition for the creation of fictional characters”. It was once. I’m not ready to admit that it will always be so, and I am not willing to return to any basement rooms to find out!


  1. I find that when I’m in the wilderness, I’m never really alone. There are voices everywhere.

    Uh-oh. Am I hearing voices??

  2. I love the outdoors. I love pretty pictures of the ourdoors. Loving something and writing about it are two different things. I want one of these days to be able to characterize the outdoors.

    Thanks for sharing.

  3. That photo looks like Jordan Pond. I really miss Acadia.

  4. Yes, the banner picture on my page is Jordan Pond. 🙂 It has been a wonderful winter and I have enjoyed seeing the Park covered in snow!

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