Wednesday, December 27, 2006

To Kelly, My Esteemed Colleague…

I may have missed the point, but I do have one of my own.

I still come down on the side of “bloodletting” as this has become known as – even as you are referring to it, which is the idea that an author should or ought drag up their own emotional baggage from which to write. Yet, sometimes the emotional events of our lives are too raw and, as authors, we should wait before we attempt to write about them. For instance, I still can’t write about the death of my daughter Ella. I don’t know if that particular wound would ever be best served by airing it in fiction. Probably real-life therapy would serve me better.

However, there are times when I do write from emotional experience. I think that when those things come up and a good story can be wrapped around them that is the making of a piece of fiction which could be transcendent and profound. I also think that writing is a fine place to explore the tough stuff, and the point of my earlier rant was that I think that our genre is too often seen as a place where escapism is the preferred route. However, I don’t think the majority of writing in our genre is, in point of fact, PURE escapism (which was my other point). And, as you say (and a point which I never, ever argued) there is a place for entertainment because it does feed the soul.

However, emotions are key. I think without them, there is no story… or at least no story I’d like to read.

Does that mean that I think that in order for a story to be about something it has to be character-driven? Yes, it does. That _is_ what I’m saying.

Volcano is about to swallow a town (idea-driven). Whoop-dee-do. Unless there’s someone interesting who is trying to stop this event, I could bloody care less. I think, for instance, that one of the reasons that both “Lost” and “Battlestar Galactica” have been so popular is because they’re science fiction stories which focus on people. I think both shows stumble when they try to make the episodes take on _issues_ (the Iraq war, for instance,) at the expense of the characters and/or the truthiness of their emotional experience (yes, I’m using that ironically.)

Anyway, when those shows sing it’s when they’re down at the core that Jay talks about in his original blog. And, I think that good stories go there. I think that in order for many readers to be invested there needs to be some emotional teeth, and I think we get those teeth by exploring our own emotional experiences.

Yeah, I make stuff up that entertains people, too. But, I also write for myself. I find that in order to keep my own attention when I write, I need to be writing about something that resonates for me. For me, what captivates my attention is the human condition.



Kelly McCullough said...

Okay, I can play that game too. A character is alone on a blank stage with nothing to do, (character driven). Whoop-dee-do. Put them in a situation, (plot driven). Interesting. Give them a set to explore, (world driven). Also interesting.

How about this, a writer is watching a television show in which the devil appears. They make the logical conclusion, that god must also exist. They think this a powerful idea and write a book about it. Idea driven?

Anonymous said...

Idea driven?

Idea ignited, maybe. Where things diverge is in the type of motor that takes over and drives the story along, whether it's primarily character, plot, or an exploration of the idea (aka the Shiny, imho).

Kelly McCullough said...

Hey Kristine,

Yeah, that's more accurate. The reason I brought it up was that I've heard Lyda use this to describe the genesis of Archangel Protocol more than once and I'm hoping that if I tease her a little she'll come back and argue more rather than going off and actually working;-)

I think one of the problems we're having in this discussion is a fuzzy boundry issue between what drives the writer, what drives the story, and what drives the reader, because honestly, those things don't have to have much of anything to do with each other. I know from talking to writers whose work I love that what primarily interests me about what they're writing and what primarily interests them often aren't the same things at all.