Tuesday, June 23, 2009

I love it yeah yeah yeah, I love it yeah yeah yeah, and with a job like that, I know I should be glad....

“I often think that the best writing is done after you’ve forgotten what you wanted to say, but end up putting something down anyway just as though it were the actual evidence of your original intention.”—Clarence Major

This has happened to me with my fiction, and with the columns/restaurant reviews I used to write for publications. When I sat down to write, the idea would not come, the original thought would not work. The words stuck. Nothing revealed from the original thought. But…I kept writing, putting down the other words that wanted to come anyway, and soon something else emerged, something that did work. I kept going until I “finished” and when I was done, I went back to the beginning and took out what I needed to of the original thought and left the rest as the revision for my finished piece. Sometimes this happens. Sometimes our mind is changed before even we know it needs to be changed. There are many times when we must follow where we are led. What a journey! This is living, folks. This is writing. This is manipulating the language without constraint—ah.

The use of point of view is to bring the reader into immediate and continuous contact with the heart of the story and sustain him there.”—Tom Jenks

Your reader will see and feel and be through the eyes of the character(s) who is(are) speaking. To me, the characters are not just the heart of the story—they ARE the story.

The poor novelist constructs his characters, he controls them and makes them speak. The true novelist listens to them and watches them function; he eavesdrops on them even before he knows them. It is only according to what he hears them say that he begins to understand who they are.”— André Gide

Those who know me have heard me say and I will say over and again say—listen to your characters. Let them show you where they want to go. Yes, sometimes we must manipulate as the author, but only when you allow your characters to be who they are, and not who you wish them to be, will everything begin to make sense, to pull together. This goes for non-fiction, as well—don’t try to tell us who you are writing about, show us through their actions, and play with the language, fudge a bit if you have to. Just because it is non-fiction, doesn’t mean you can’t embellish a bit—for isn’t life one big story told a different way with each telling? (And don’t be afraid to use dialogue in your essay.)

Surely the test of a novel’s characters is that you feel a strong interest in them and their affairs,—the good to be successful, the bad to suffer failure.”—Mark Twain

If you are not interested in your characters, why should anyone else be? Alternatively, If you do not believe in your work, why should anyone else?—believe me, it will show. The reader always knows. Give them your best. Give them the truths—and this word “truth” means more than what first appears to you.

I was never too interested in starting with “ideas” and applying images. I wanted the stuff of it all, the pillow, the mint leaf, the crust of paint. Let the little things lead.”—Naomi Shihab Nye

Another thing those who know me have heard, and I will say over and again: those “little things” – those images, those sensory details, the little details and images make your story or essay come alive. Don’t be afraid to add something small as a curled leaf, a spot on the bedroom wall, tracks of freckles across a nose, a single red bird in a field of white snow (as long as you watch for cliché!), or images/sensory details, such as a woman chopping onions and then sautéing them in melted butter, a boy watching his father shave/work/laugh/cry/spit/scratch/leave, a girl placing a bare foot in the water and shivering—the foot is only the beginning of the entire body’s immersion in what will become…, a moment of discovery, a glance, a sigh, a well-placed touch with just the tip of the second finger from the left—play with your images, think of the big things, yes, but those little things, little images, will make your work live.

“….You start out putting words down and there are three things—you, the pen, and the page. Then gradually the three things merge until they are one and you feel about the page as you do about your arm. Only you love it more than you love your arm.”—John Steinbeck.

There are those times when the world as we know it goes away and our own inner world takes over, and soon the words are coming and the characters speaking and the story or essay is forming and there is nothing else but that, nothing but this world, this place, this feeling we as writers are creating. Hours can pass, and we lift our heads and, wait! It can’t be three o’clock, just a little while ago it was eleven o’clock—we have been to other-worlds, alternate universes, going gone, and the coming back is surreal—seemingly less real than the inner world we’d just come back from.

Not every writer loves his craft. Not every writer always enjoys writing and manipulating the language. Not every writer (and I doubt any of them…) is deliriously happy every time they sit down to work—especially when it comes to revisions revisions revisions. Well, if you do not always love it, so what? If you want to write—then write. I love it, but I get frustrated at times. There are times I say, “I wish I weren’t a writer. I wish I didn’t love it!” but I know I’d not have it any other way. I know I’d wither and wilt and die a bit if I could not write, create, do what I do—as clichéd as that sounds, it is what it is.

By the way, if you worry about what the editor or publisher wants, you will drive yourself crazy. Instead, why not write for an audience of one: you. The rest will work itself out, one way or the other . . . That’s what I did with TENDER GRACES.

Now . . . go do the day. Love, Kat


Jessica said...

Wow, great post. Your advice is as good as all those quotes. Thanks!

Carol @ TheWritersPorch said...

great post Kat! Let VK have HER say!

Angie Ledbetter said...

Manipulating the words and letting them manipulate you!

PS Love that graphic. Might make a good base for a tattoo. hehe

Deb Shucka said...

Thanks, teach! What a great post. It's always the relationships and the story for me - whether fiction or non. Great quotes, too.

NCmountainwoman said...

You may have written it for an audience of one (yourself) but you surely pulled a bunch of us in with you. I'll never be a writer, but I did enjoy this post. Good advice for anyone.

Sharla said...

I always listen to my characters and they always throw a hitch in my plans!! That's why I'm kinda stalled in my current piece. I had it figured out and then these people started griping about it and rebelling and now I don't know the middle anymore. Characters can be such primadonnas!!

Terri Tiffany said...

Wonderful post!! Thank you. I feel like I'm doing at least some things right--especially the part about writing for how I feel rather than for a certain pubisher.

Debbie said...

And that is why you are so good at your craft!