Tuesday, July 26, 2005

"Sometimes It's Better To Write What You Feel, Than What You Know"

I'm fascinated by weblogs. Each is unique in its own way.

While many blogs exist to spread and discuss information (such as news, movies, books, hobbies), they are also means of personal expression. And of course, many fiction-writers now have weblogs.

One thing strikes me when reading the weblogs of people who write, or aspire to write: sometimes, their weblog writing is MORE expressive, more emotional, than their fiction (short stories, excerpts from novels).

They seem to have more to say - and find it much easier to express it - in their weblogs, than in the fiction they write.

Most aspiring writers look to an established writer as their "ideal" to follow, and try (often very hard) to emulate or imitate their favorite successful author.
They may focus intensely on style, or detail... and yet, something is missing in the result. I read a piece of this fiction, and my gut reaction is:

"This writer is holding back. His weblog is full of feeling and soul, he has things to say... but when I read his fiction, it's like he's not really expressing himself. Something was in the weblog, but not in the fiction."

It could be that weblogs ARE a superior medium for self-expression: fiction is too rule-bound for most people who wish to put their thoughts into text. (In that case, the Death of the Novel might be at hand... mua ha-haa!)

Or, the writer tries too hard to emulate others, instead of "emulating himself." (OK, clumsy term, but you get the point.) The "ideal" becomes an obstacle to self-expression.

The only solution is to break free of the model, the ideal. If you want your stories to sing, you have to listen to what's inside you. It's a Zen thing.

Sometimes it's better to write what you feel, than what you know.

Friday, July 15, 2005

Harry Potter And The Peerless Pastiches

The British newspaper The Guardian has a hilarious Harry Potter feature going: "The alternative Potter: Dumbledore's death" .

The contestants have produced several laugh-out-loud funny pastiches of Harry Potter - for instance, "Dumbledore's Death" as written by Charles Dickens, by Frank "Sin City" Miller, by Dr. Seuss, by Lemony Snicket, by Jane Austen, by Helen Fielding, by Douglas Adams (the list keeps growing)...

These pastiches are not only very good (my favorite: As written by tabloid newspaper The Sun - "OLD GIT DIES!"), they are also exercises in style from which any writer could learn a lot.

Read them and see how style affects content... how you can depict a single event from many different perspectives.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

So Many Books, So Little Time

How things change!

I remember the bad old days - before Amazon.com, before the Internet - when it could take weeks, months, YEARS to locate a rare book. You had a local library, but it had a limited selection. If you wanted to borrow other books, you had to travel to a bigger library in another city.

Now, virtually all books ever written are at your fingertips - that is, if you have Internet access and can use Amazon.com, or Project Gutenberg.

Do you get "Pile-of-Books-I-Should-Read-But-I-Never-Get-Time" Anxiety? It's not uncommon.

Research used to take days. Now you can do it in hours, minutes even. Google it!

And the inevitable question arrives: Why write new fiction at all? What can it add to the now fully available mass of existing works? When all books are within your reach, is there anything left to say, any story yet untold? (Except, of course all the bad and boring ones.)

Please post your opinions in the Comment field.