The Inkheart theory
I’ve just finished reading the third of the Inkheart trilogy and it’s given me some food for thought. Whilst I didn’t enjoy it as much as the other two – the fantasy has become a little convoluted, the point of view changes too often, and there are some strange interjections by the author – Cornelia Funke certainly poses a few questions about the role of the writer.
In this third book two writers compete to finish the story and the characters also express their wishes for an outcome. Fengolio, the original author, is getting old and losing his craft. Orpheus wants full control of the world he has partly stolen from Fengolio and partly created himself.
All of the characters, animals and plant-life have a life beyond that given them by the authors. Everything develops organically and takes even the authors by surprise as it slips out of their control, though the characters in the stories can demand interventions from the authors, and if the author is willing what they wish for can be granted.
Are we perhaps the characters in someone-else’s story and is prayer a request for author intervention? Is the struggle between good and evil simply the struggle between two possible outcomes? Are Orpheus and Fengolio in fact gods incarnate?
Rich thoughts but Funke also offers us some more pragmatic views about the writer.
Blocked and fanatical writers
Fengolio looks for every excuse possible not to write – the ink is too thick or too thin, he is too old, he has run out of ideas or his characters won’t behave. Both Oprheus and Fengolio have to have exactly the right circumstances before they can write. They both also doubt the value of their work at times and at other times think they are gods. Orpheus has so little faith in his work at one point that he covers his words with ink. Then, however, he sets off to the north to the “undescribed lands”, sure that he can clothe them in stories.
Writers inhabiting the world they create
Fengolio eventually settles down to writing again and is transported to the world he is creating. He doesn’t want to come back. He is annoyed when he is disturbed. Our relationship with our ability to write is fragile: those of us with experience know that we will get into that zone quite quickly once we settle down to our writing. It almost always works. Those few times when it doesn’t are terrifying. I’ll give a little personal tip here: I often find that I write better on the days when I struggle than on the days when it all seems to flow.
Readers become writers
Orpheus became a writer because he loved the other world he read about. Yes, it is fascinating to read about other worlds and when we can’t get enough of them it is even more delightful to create our own.
Metaphor for the reading / writing process
Funke takes the writers’ and readers’ ability to enter the world of the book to a literal conclusion. The word – French ‘la parole’ - is so strong that the readers and writers literally walk into the story. Is this in fact the ultimate aim of our craft?