Where the Writing Things Are

Early this week I was supposed to finish writing “Story of G”.  Instead, our latest Netflix DVD came in the mail, and Dear Wife and I decided to sit down and watch “Where the Wild Things Are” together.  Doubtless you will see this decision reflected in my weekly writing progress recap.

I have to say, “Where the Wild Things Are” touched me deeply, at an emotional level.  And it made me think – about myself, my history, and my writing.

Let me clarify this: I am not writing a review of “Where the Wild Things Are”.  Although, if I had to, I’d give the film an “A” (but not an “A+”).  But I am going to reference the film, and so this may be a little spoilery if you haven’t seen it (it came out in late 2009 so there the statute of limitations has passed). 

“Where the Wild Things Are” is not a movie for children – certainly children can watch it, as there is nothing offensive or truly terrifying or too mature in the movie, but they may be unlikely fully to grasp, and especially to appreciate, the movie for what it is, even if it is based on a famous children’s picture book.  The director, Spike Jonze, is quoted as saying it is a movie “about childhood”.  That’s true – it is about childhood, as seen through the refractive glass of adult introspection – but it is about something more than that.  It’s about our relationships to one-another, our emotions, and how we sometimes let the strongest of those emotions harm the relationships we have with those we love most.  It’s about loneliness and the pain of separation and loss.  It’s about existential angst, primal fear.  And it’s about the stories we tell ourselves, the inner lives we invent, to cope with it all.

In that latter way, it’s about being a writer. Continue reading

More Truth & Honesty in Fiction: The Dark Matter

Yesterday, I began a discussion here that was part of an ongoing dialog between myself and many other bloggers – including, but not limited to Lua Fowles, J.P. Cabit, Janna T. and any others who may have commented on yesterday’s post (obviously, I’m writing this before yesterday’s post went live, i.e. from the Past! Via the magic of Science!) – about honesty in fiction.  Yesterday’s post focused specifically on language and how we use it and, more specifically than that, on profanity.

The question at hand is author-extraordinaire Stephen King’s assertion that we have what amounts to a sacred trust with the Reader to represent the world of our story, and its characters, honestly and truly.   But, even in accepting that sacred trust, the question remains as to what represents honesty and truth in the context of what is essentially a fabrication, and figment, a lie.

The question I’m trying to explore in this blog post is the dark matter of fiction.  Story requires plot, and plot requires characters and conflict.  These are the most basic of building blocks in what writers do.  And the heart of conflict is… well… conflict.  That’s a huge can of worms to open.  There are many layers and many depths that we can explore regarding the issue of conflict.  We can skim it lightly, reflecting the little surface conflicts of every-day life: whether to drive too fast or aggressively to get to work on time after sleeping in too late, whether to ask the pretty girl/handsome guy out, whether to ask the boss for a raise, whether to stay home and study for the test tomorrow or go out to hang with friends, whether to lace a little profanity into your speech to seem hip and cool… and so on.  Some readers eat this stuff up, and some writers love to write it.

Me, I’m a speculative fiction lover, writer and reader.  I deal with everyday life conflicts every day.  When I turn to story and fiction, I’m looking for something that plays out on a larger stage.  I’m looking for something that makes it a relief to return to my little, everyday troubles.  I’m looking for something that gives me perspective, and context, and meaning.  I’m looking for something with mythic scope.  I’m not that unusual, in that regard.  Even if that doesn’t float your boat, though, what I’m discussing here will still be relevant. Continue reading

Truth & Honesty in Fiction

The thing about the “blogosphere” is that it can allow for a lot of deep discussion of big issues, if we let it.  Every blogger has his or her own soapbox on which he can stand to proclaim his or her opinion.  And then there are comments where, if they’re smart, they let other people express their opinion.  Some of those commenters – most, these days – will be other bloggers, who can go back to their own blogs to spout their own opinions again, and so it goes, back and forth, round and round, and maybe eventually we arrive at the truth of the matter, or maybe we just reach a level of comfort with our beliefs after having had a critical look at them.

This is a conversation that, in this iteration, was started over on Lua Fowles’ Bowl of Oranges on Monday.  But this is my soapbox, so this is where I tell you what I think.  What I didn’t think was that I’d be doing a blog post on the topic.  But a comment by J.P. Cabit on Lua’s blog, and a subsequent comment that Janna T. left over on my Comment Policy page convinced me there’s more to explore on this issue.  The topic, if you haven’t followed the links, is on “Honesty” in what we right.  But this topic can be explored on more than one level: there’s at least two, possibly three, that I can directly touch on in this post.  (I suspect this will be a long one, and so I may have a follow-up tomorrow.)

It’s an old saw that writers – especially Fiction writers – are professional liars.  (I can’t find a good quote on it, but you’ve heard the phrase before, I’m sure.)  It’s an equally old saw that somehow Fiction reveals Truth (that comes from Ralph Waldo Emerson:

Fiction reveals truth that reality obscures.

~Ralph Waldo Emerson

But this raises the question: what is Truth?  What does it mean to be “True” in Fiction, or to be “Honest” as writers, when what we write is fundamentally not true, in the strict, factual sense?  It’s a philosophical question, perhaps, but it’s worth considering. Continue reading