Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Continuing the Preceding Post

This is more about ideas. Maybe it tells you something silly about me, but I am very proud of places where I did something that strikes me as a bit new. I once ended a story with five morals -- five good and useful morals -- because you are not supposed to have morals at the end of a SF story.

When I started sending out stories, editors kept telling me that they didn't see the point of the stories. What were they about? So my second novel ends with my characters spending fifty pages discussing the meaning of their adventure. It's been years since I read the novel, so I can't remember their conclusion.

The discussion struck me as neat and funny. It meant readers -- especially editors --had the explanation they wanted, and I was not in any way responsible for the explanation, since it came from my characters.

I had given readers the meaning requested, but since this meaning came from chracters within the novel, it was a meaning in the novel and not the meaning of the novel, the author's meaning.

No one has ever complained about the ending of the novel or told me that they couldn't figure out what the novel was about.

When I do things like this, it seems to me I'm dealing with ideas, not character or plot or mood. Can you end a story with a moral and still have it work? Well, yes, but why have only one moral? Can you end a story with a long explanation and not have the readers turn against you? Yes, I think so, though I can't remember any reviews of that novel. I am pretty sure I did not get any angry letters.


Kelly McCullough said...

I pretty sure that what we're talking about when we talk about ideas is fundamentally different. For me (and [I think] Justine) the "idea" part of the morals story in your example is where you think I wonder if I can make a story that ends with a moral work? The execution of a story that takes that idea and makes it a successful one is where the vast majority of the work comes in and is not at all the same thing as simply having the idea.

Eleanor said...

Yes. I think we are talking about different things, and I'm not getting what you and Justine are talking about. I'm not sure it needs more discussion. But there is some kind of (I suspect) basic difference here, which may well have to do with how we approach writing.

Douglas Hulick said...

I think Kelly is talking about the initial "flashes" of the idea -- the, "Hey, that would make a cool story. *fiddle, fiddle* Yeah, it IS a cool premise." By contrast, I get the feeling that Eleanor is talking more about the process of develpoing the idea into a story, and the steps that go into it (almost verging on theme).

To attempt a metaphor, Kelly is looking at an architect's sketch of the finished house and saying, "Yeah, that might be a cool place to live", while Eleanor is looking at the blue prints and considering the overall livability of the place. Or something. :)

Kelly McCullough said...

That's a good way to put it Doug, though I might go one step further and say I'm looking at the cocktail napkin sketch of the house rather than the more practical architect's thumbnail.

I guess I'm talking about idea at the level you get in conversations where somebody says: "You're a writer! I've got this great idea for a book. Why don't I tell you about it" Followed by "Then you can do the easy part and write it." Or, "You can use that if you want."

And sometimes the idea the person describes is really smart and would make a great book. The problematic part of such an interchange isn't the quality of the idea, it's the belief that person has that the "idea" or conception part of writing the book is the hard part and the actual execution is the easy part.

It's that usage of "idea" that I'm really addressing. I think that's also what Justine is getting at, but I won't presume to speak for her.