Wednesday, August 01, 2007

experience, observation, imagination

Quote of the Day: A writer needs three things, experience, observation, and imagination, any two of which, at times any one of which, can supply the lack of the others.

--William Faulkner

This is sooo true. And I often see the lack one of these things...but often the other things that are in the author don't seem to supply the lack of the others. This is just my opinion. For instance, I didn't know much about observation. I was terrible about "showing" because I truly had to learn about the various kinds of body language. My characters tended to be talking heads. And they still kinda are...so i'm glad my crit friends remind me of these kind of things.

As for imagination, I've seen a lot of imitative writing. People think they're being imaginative...and they are being imaginative as far as they know...but honestly in a lot of allegories I've read, they're imagining a world that is already created. Or a concept that already exists...and they aren't using it or mining it...anymore. They think they're imaginative because they are stringing together a kind of plot....but it's really a plot based on something they didn't imagine. For instance, why are so many dragons in the stories of beginning writers named "Draco." It's a bit much.

The last thing is experience. This is kind of tough. We all have experience...It's not really about youth, i think...but about the ability to be in touch with your own experience of joy, pain, need, fear, whatever, and get it into the story. So many of the stories I've read feel so unlived in. Someone writes a story about an ugly brute who is being rejected by a beautiful woman. Yet when one reads the story it's as if they don't seem to understand rejection or what it means to be ugly....even if one knows they must have been rejected...or that they must have considered themselves ugly at one time or another.

I wonder why that happens. Lack of courage? Lack of the ability to see ourselves?

-C
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