Write...or Die Trying

I used to work in a factory. Now I work in an office. Either way, my writing was dying. So now I must: Write...or Die Trying.


Taking Your Craft Too Far

I'm going to get tired of listening to a particularly annoying person in one of my classes this semester. I'm stating the obvious up front--figured I'd just get that out of the way so we can move on.

"But why?" You ask.

Good question. I think it's mainly their insistence on using fancy words (with an admiring exactitude, I might add) instead of just coming out with it. We were discussing the role of language in the fiction writer's style and their question was basically: "Can't a fiction writer use beautiful [sound of doves flapping away and a shaft of golden sunlight falling on dew-scented, green grass] language?"

In short, no. That's right. I said N-O, no. UNLESS, that's the whole purpose for the work. Like "Ulysses." A book I'm fairly sure has no real point, but is an excellent example of what a master artist can do with the right tools and the competency to use them.

But for those of us who want to write stuff that other people will actually want to read, I can offer no more guidance better than the ideas discussed in this post on the fact that "Craft Isn't Everything."

If we get too enthralled with our Art, we'll begin to think that the masterful execution of said Art is an actual, altrusic, and attainable goal. That to write a perfectly delightful sentence is the height of our artistic purpose. Phew, is it getting deep in here!

See, I don't like the notion we should thumb our nose at brevity, conciseness, and straightforwardness, in favor of a nose-elevating, brow-heightening, Mastery of The Mystical Craft. Do you distinctly remember any time in the Lord Of The Rings where you paused to appreciate a masterful application of the English language? A place where you jumped out of the narrative, just shy of the Misty Mountains, to enjoy a well-turned phrase? I don't. I've read the books a half-dozen times and I still can't explain to you what Tolkien's "style" was. As far as I can tell, he really didn't have any. Oh, I'm sure you could point to some minutiae that could be classified as Tolkien-esque, but you'd be hard-pressed to do it and you wouldn't have very stunning examples of it.

I think that's because Tolkien stepped back from his story and didn't force recognition of his (actual) mastery of the English language from the reader. He didn't want the reader to stop, reread, and appreciate an especially well-written sentence for the sake of the language. Not in those books anyway. In the appropriate venues he used the literati-lingo and when he wrote fiction, his style changed accordingly.

Maybe our fiction would improve drastically if we just took the time to remember that maybe, just like the tree that actually doesn't make any noise when it falls in the woods and no one is there to hear it (noise is perceived, not generated, for those still hanging back there and not wanting to move forward until that intellectual quandary is resolved,) then maybe Art isn't "appreciated" if no one is there to "hear" it (or read it.)


At 12/01/2005 08:52:00 AM, Anonymous Loretta said...

So, you are saying that when a tree falls down and no one is around to hear the noise when it falls then it doesn't make a noise when it falls. Hmmm......interesting.

As a writer myself, I agree with you on using flowery wordage. Ridiculous waste of time. :)


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