Friday, May 14, 2010

Writing is actually more than just the story

Here is a conundrum that I often face: do I follow the naturalist path in writing or the artificial god route? If you've never really tried to write a sustained fictional narrative you may have never even have thought to consider this question. Me, I think about it all the time. Now, these terms are pretty much my own, because I'm not well educated in the lingo of graduate level literary studies ... so, let's start with my own little definitions.

When I'm talking about the naturalist path in writing, I'm expressing a desire to make the story (regardless of how crazy the situation may be) flow in a natural manner. This means the reader may not know everything that is going on and not every situation has a tidy ending. It's more like life. Sometimes, we just don't know things. Situations are sloppy.

You have to understand, when you read a story or watch a show where the situations seem chaotic and that it's like real life, the writer meant it to be that way. It was crafted -- it's something fake trying to take on the appearance of reality. When done well, it can really draw you into characters and make you a part of the story.

Another option is the writer as an artificial god, clearly manipulating the situation to make it simple or exciting or self-contained. As I mentioned, all stories are artificial - the difference here is that the writer doesn't really follow the pretense of the narrative being true to life. A lot of your action films follow this route - you create a circumstance that forces the main character to clearly define who they are, you create these set pieces that don't seem natural at all -- but they're really, really exciting. As a reader or viewer, you're overtly being manipulated, but when done well -- you just don't care, because it's so much fun.

Horror movies often follow this path: hey, there is some supernatural mofo stalking and killing all of us, but let's leave the group to go have sex in that secluded spot with only one exit. I mean, we all KNOW what's going to happen, but we accept it as part of the framework and go along with it.

So, I'm often torn by which path to follow. Most people prefer stories in the artificial god mode -- they like being taken on a ride, and they don't like to have to work for it. This is what sells and what is successful. Heck, some of my favorite books and movies definitely follow this route. At the same time, I'm so drawn to creating worlds where the reader just doesn't know everything, where things are spoon fed.

Anyway, the point of this post is just to let non-writers into what someone like myself thinks about when creating. Stories aren't just "there" -- writers have to make a whole bunch of conscious decisions on how to sculpt them.

It's really so much work. I'm tired just thinking about it! :)

Jennifer Knapp is back! Yay her! Here's a video from one of her recent live performances:

1 comment:

  1. I so agree with you. Simply put, writing is hard. Writing is called a craft for good reason. An excellent writer must be a word-smith, a sculptor of reason and emotion. Seeking to be an excellent writer is not a quest for the weak of heart, imho, so I wish you good fortune on your way.