October 28, 2009

The illusion of authorial control

In a discussion of L'Engle's memoir Walking on Water at A Motley Vision ("We live under the illusion that if we can acquire complete control, we can understand God, or we can write the great American novel"), Patricia comments, "And this is why art as self-expression is art of a lesser light."

I've come to a similar realization recently. Maybe it comes with passing the half-century mark, but I find I've grown tired of angst and self-revelation. What I really want to do is tell an entertaining story, and better it be trashy than chock full of earnest "meaning."

This is what I think Robert McKee is getting at: the artistic import you're striving for is never so grand that you can dispense with story. The story is in control, not your deep thoughts, and you must be prepared to move your ego out of the way and let it go charging on through.

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# posted by Blogger Joe
10/28/2009 4:05 PM   
Angst and self-revelation are only fun if they are a pack of lies. Few writers are that interesting otherwise.
# posted by Blogger Kate Woodbury
10/29/2009 6:52 AM   
I agree: writing should be about entertainment, not "meaning." From the writer's perspective, I think this is accomplished through "immediacy"--the ability to push the story directly onto the page, unhindered by the writer's tinkering. I think immediacy is one reason books like Twilight achieve their ends, no matter how annoying those ends may be.

I just wish I knew how to do it! One solution I've found is to work the story out in my head completely before I start writing. The moment I start writing, I get obsessed with the language, how everything is said, but if I've already mapped out the story in my head (and outlined it on paper), the story has a better chance of controlling my writing.