Light a Candle for the Fictional Ancestors

Tumblr Post #9 (August 2016)

There is power in lighting candles. Healing power. Calming power. Spiritual power. It is the effects of these powers that are the reasons why I keep lit candles near to me almost daily. There is a single candle on my altar at home, for example, and one of its many functions is to make me feel connected to my known and unknown ancestors while I meditate. It’s a practice that I take very seriously and recently (as in today) I incorporated it into my routine as I write this novel.

Now that you all have been following this blog for about eleven months, I think that it is only fitting that I give you a glimpse into the world that I am creating within my head.

*Don’t get too excited though… you get no plot summaries from me. *

I am a daughter of the South and have grown up in the back woods of southeast Georgia for virtually my entire life. Because of this, I have come of age in a culture of Black American folklore that is unique to the culture in which I grew up. There are tons of stories—related and unrelated to my family—that date back generations up until slavery that offer explanations for why some people are the way they are or why certain landmarks carry certain reputations—good or bad.

In the spirit of these stories of lore, I created a scenario in chapter six that explains the origins of an important dirt road. The story involves slaves from whom my main characters are direct descendants.

As I wrote this story, which is fictional as far as I know, I suddenly felt my body and mind become meditative: as if the ancestors of my main characters were my own and I was connecting to them as I wrote about them. This made me stop writing mid-sentence, close all of the window blinds, and light every candle in my room; for this origin story, this fictional story of folklore, suddenly because something that felt of fact.

And as the story spilled from my thoughts onto paper, it felt as if I, myself, were tasked with carrying on an oral tradition that had been passed down for generations. I suddenly felt a responsibility to my fictional ancestors to not mess this up.

To not take this story lightly.

To tell it in a way that sparks the imagination.

To tell it in a way that leaves the reader begging for more details though no details can ever be found. That’s the power and mystery of folklore that I have always been so fascinated with.

So today, as I wrote the story in a dark room with candles lit, I felt a sense of pride in thinking that the fictional ancestors would be proud of me.

Though now that I think about it, those ancestors may not be as fictional as I may think. Yes, the story is technically made up and yes, the people in the story did not exist in real life. Yet, I still view them in the same way that I view all of the relatives whom I never met but have lived before me; and in a way, continue to live in me. Therefore, those “made up” individuals in this novel may not even be fictional after all, but instead actual people around whom I’ve created a fictional story.

I like the sound of that.

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