It occurred to me the other day that my writing is fuelled by obsessions.

I read about the eruption of Mt Vesuvius in 79AD, and was fascinated by the stories revealed in Pompeii digs. How plaster casts made by filling up holes in the solidified volcanic debris show a man protecting his pregnant wife, the folds in her robes still distinct. The discovery this year of several skeletons huddled together in the central room of a newly excavated house in Pompeii, possibly a family hoping to escape the pyroclastic flow. After reading extensively, I wrote a story about a man with the same fascination.

Last year I watched a documentary about a Fundamentalist Latter Day Saints community in Utah, where each man had more than one wife, and I became obsessed with finding out more. How did these families work? What did the wives really think about this?  I read multiple articles and interviews, researched a specific community and used Google Earth to ‘roam’ around that town. I read more about FLDS beliefs. Then I wrote a story about a second wife getting ready to meet the third wife.

It seems to me that curiosity is so important in any writing, whether fiction or non-fiction, fantasy or realism. What happened? What might have happened, in such a place or time? Who is that person, and how would they act? And if we develop brief preoccupations in the process, I think these are good—powering our writing and imbuing it with the bright sharpness of our excitement.

Current obsession—caving. Tight squeezes, some underwater.





9 thoughts on “Obsessions

  1. Great post, Fiona. I agree, curiosity is vital to a writer. Your ‘obsessions’ are clearly a sign of both a fierce imagination and a hunger for knowledge. Don’t you love how writing satisfies both? I’ll leave the caving to you – I struggle to even watch underwater tight squeezes on tv documentaries.

  2. So agree a writer’s obessions are our fuel. it was my fascination with ice dancing ( courtesy the Pyeong Olympics) and Vikings ( both the TV series and actual history) that led to me writing my book Fire & Ice.

  3. Deep curiosity fuels our learning through life, Fiona, but I m reluctant to call a thirst for knowledge an obsession. Obsession seems too closed and too negative for the open process of satisfying the need to know that you describe.

    Caving? I can’t wait to read about that in one of your future posts. Too scary for me.

    • Hi Maureen, I think you’re right – it’s exaggerating to call my intense interest an obsession (what? a writer who exaggerates? Unheard of!). I agree – it’s really more a deep fascination.
      Will let you know what comes of the caving preoccupation! x

  4. I’m obsessed with obsessions and curious about curiosity. But seriously, also fascinated by Pompeii and that other one nearby which is underwater, they call it “Underwater Pompeii” but it has its own name.

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