Through the Prism

After passing through the prism, each refraction contains some pure essence of the light, but only an incomplete part. We will always experience some aspect of reality, of the Truth, but only from our perspectives as they are colored by who and where we are. Others will know a different color and none will see the whole, complete light. These are my musings from my particular refraction.

3.27.2011

Vaguely Related Thoughts about Writing

A news update from The Onion: Microsoft Word Now Includes Squiggly Blue Line To Alert Writer When Word Is Too Advanced For Mainstream Audience (Although more seriously)

One of the things I say often--very often--as a librarian talking to kids and their parents is that reading is a skill. And, like any skill, the best way to improve is regular practice. Most important is not grammar drills or challenging works, but consumption of mass quantities. Generally this comes up in the context of finding enjoyable books to read and having fun with the activity so they stay motivated, but the point is that the best way to become a better reader is to read constantly. Here's an older post that expands on the thought a little.

While I don't aspire to be a writer, I bring this up because I think it applies to writing as well. Andrew Smith has just written an excellent post saying just that:

willie's houseboat, or why you should have a blog

. . . You know what else I do every day? I run. I have run (and completed) 30 marathons in my life. A marathon is 26.2 miles long, by the way.

The thing about most non-insane people who want to run a marathon is that they don't just pop out of bed one day and say, hey!!!! I'm going to go run 26.2 miles today!!!

They train up to it over time, running, working out, and contributing to their abilities every day.

That's what young (or anyone who has a goal or desire to one day actually complete something like a short story, novel, or screenplay) writers need to keep in mind:

Practice. . . .


Although apparently the decision to do so should come with a warning. One of the quotes I liked from Here Lies Arthur was:

That's the trouble with a story spinner. You never know what's real and what's made up. Even when they are telling the truth, they can't stop themselves from spinning it into something better; something prettier, with more of a pattern to it.

Here's a recent blog post by a writer who greatly and humorously expands on this idea and related ones:

Beware of Writer: Ten Very Good Reasons to Get Far the Fuck Away from Us Writer Types:

. . . Please Ignore Our Forked Tongues
We are lying liars who lie. We have to be. Fiction is a lie. Non-fiction is, in its own way, a lie. When writing, deception is a skill. This, like so much of the thread that goes into our wretched quilt, trails into our real lives and ensures that the best writers make the most powerful liars. We can convince you of anything. We don’t mean to. It’s just . . .


There's more and it's funny. I know some of my regular readers have the intention of becoming writers, so I thought you should take both this and Smith's posts under advisement.

And, since I'm doing vague free-association, I thought we might revisit one of my favorite quotes from another previous post, explaining my preferred means of engaging in stories and why:

I think this is the soul of why role-playing games like D&D and EPT were so popular with young boys. They provided a trellis work for the imagination to climb upon and thrive. Unsupported, your day dreams can wither; backed up by rules, pictures, model figures and the input of others, there's no end to the amount of brain space they can consume. . . .

The power of the story, either writing or reading or listening to one, is that the imagination is tied to something that makes it go forward. . . .

D&D is, I believe, something virtually unique and unprecedented in human history. It's a story you can listen to at the same time as telling it. You can be surprised by the plot's twists and turns, but you can surprise too. It's more interactive than any other sort of narrative I can think of. If its subject matter were more serious then it would probably be considered a new art form, and it's probably surprising that nothing beyond murder mystery dinners has ever been evolved from it. This is why D&D is so addictive when it's played right. It's like the best story you've ever read combined with the charge a good storyteller feels as he plays his audience.

I think there's a basic human need to listen to stories, but also to tell them. In D&D you get that tingle you imagine when you think of the ancient storytellers, dusk falling, the camp fire burning and the first line being read. It's not like hearing "In a hole in the ground lived a hobbit," it's like saying it for the first time and to a rapt audience that is dying for your next sentence.

I have finished games feeling physically drained and actually wanted to continue to have my characters buy food at a shop or smoke a pipe in a tavern just to calm down before breaking with the game world entirely. And sometimes even that wasn't enough. The crucial difference between conventional forms of storytelling and D&D is that D&D doesn't have to finish. Ever. It's an open-ended story, and, if you're emotionally engaged with it, the temptation is just to keep going.

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