The Manhattan Project--2016 A to Z Theme

Always a work in progress--welcome to my blog...

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

#IWSG: Say what? (Did I Say That Out Loud?)



What and how much had I lost by trying to do only what 
was expected of me instead of what I myself had wished to do?” 
― Ralph EllisonInvisible Man

First Wed of Every Month       Do you have something to say when you write?  Or do you just tell a story and leave it at that?

       Stories can work on many levels aside from the obvious recounting of what happened and how that affected everybody.   Much, if not most, of the output of fiction writers is intended merely for entertainment.  How often do we read just to while away the time with a well told story?  At least we hope it's well told, or at the very least that it's a good story.   

        Most readers probably don't grab a fiction book off the shelf in hopes of learning something deep.  Being entertained often doesn't mean stretching one's mind very much.  Education is more for textbooks or something off the non-fiction bookshelves.  Some of it might be entertaining to some extent, but often the non-fiction just doesn't seem very fun.

         Then there is "literature" as in fancy-readin' English Lit kind of stuff.  They might call it literary fiction or "the Classics".   This is the kind of literature that is analyzed in college courses or by critics in high brow publications.   This type of literature is more than just stories.   The stories mean something besides just what happens from beginning to ending.  There are themes and symbolism.  The story represents something else entirely and is supposed to deliver a message, whether overt or cloaked.

         This leads me to consider whether I should be expressing my opinions, beliefs, and life philosophies in my fiction.  All writers do to some extent.   But what about when the philosophy or belief system of the author can lead to rejection--vehement in some instances--that can cause bad press or boycotting?  Should the author let inner feelings infuse the written output?   Is it a fiction author's place to teach or preach, or is the duty of that author merely to entertain?

 First Wednesday of the month means another edition of Alex J Cavanaugh's Insecure Writers Support Group.   You can discover more participants here.


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34 comments:

  1. We were thinking the same today.
    Our writing is our creation, what we make of it. We risk when we pour a lot of us in it. But then again, it's all us, isn't it?

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  2. This is a great post Lee, thought provoking stuff most certainly. I don't think that people like Harper Lee who wrote To Kill A Mockingbird expected her book to take off and be analysed like it did, those writers just did their best at the time and didn't expect such scrutinisation. Great post Lee, really has me thinking.

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  3. Great post, and very timely for me - I'm currently doing an MA in creative writing and we've been analysing novels this term. The ones with the most impact do seem to be the stories written with real passion, not merely a desire to be clever and play with novelistic techniques.

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  4. When I started to write poetry I wrote about an experience in my life and somehow that has remained mostly throughout all of my poems. There has been the odd one that tells a story but as I said mainly all my poems are true to life.

    Yvonne.

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  5. Interesting thoughts in this post Arlie, made me think. I suppose we put a little of ourselves into everything we write.

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  6. I'm a firm believer of writing exactly what you'd like to, not writing to a specific audience. Our differences in beliefs make for more interesting reading.

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  7. I always think of the writing class where he said, "Open your vein and bleed onto the paper." At first I cringed at the idea, but now I get what he meant.

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  8. I did what I was supposed to do as an Indian woman ie take care of my family when I was young and put off my hobbies ie reading and writing. Today I have a lot of free time breaks during work and time at home, but my memory does not allow me to read fast enough ( specially fiction).

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  9. I want my books to be entertaining first. Though I have on occasion imagined my chapters being dissected by my old high school English teacher. The inclusion of your beliefs and philosophies is more of an unconscious process for me. Only during the editing process do I realize how clever I am including all those subtle yet meaningful symbols.

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  10. I love to learn new things when reading, but that's my motive when I pick up a book. I write because I have things to tell and hope readers will relate and be entertained.

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  11. I don't think we can consciously put those lessons into our writing but in the telling of the story, the lessons come thru.
    Karen

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  12. Alex -- So true. Honest expression is a part of who we really are.

    Yeamie-- I think Harper Lee and most other authors of relevant books had a specific message they wanted to convey and were successful doing it. That is partly why those works are considered to be important and lasting works of literature.

    Joanne - It used to bug me how we'd dissect writing in college classes but now I see greater relevance in doing so.

    Yvonne -- Relating personal experience is an important aspect of teaching others.

    C.M.-- A little? I think I'd like to put a lot more, but do I dare?

    Miranda - It can be more easy in our time to become a pariah if we say certain "unacceptable" things. Our opinions can label us to the extent we can become hard to market.

    Ciara -- That's a good quote, but I wonder what's in the blood? Open emotion can be different that brutal facts or points of view.

    Munir -- I can relate to that. So much to read, but too slow to do it quickly and retain what I've read. I've always been that way.

    JM -- I think that's frequently the case. We can't help but color our work with our outlook on life. But are we conveying a truly useful message?

    Em-- I'm with you on that, but then again I'd like to influence readers with what I think is important.

    Karen -- I think the message in the medium can be forced and then it's not clean. I guess my main concern is how much audience will I alienate with my message if that message comes across with great clarity?

    Lee

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  13. I probably do let some of my principles show through in my writing. That to me, is part of my voice. The trick is to be subtle.

    I like some literary reading and some of the classics, but they're usually the ones that don't need a Cole's Notes to decipher.

    Literary writing shouldn't have to be analyzed, IMO, the message should come through. Ancient writing, maybe, to put it in the proper perspective of the times.

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  14. As I said on Alex's blog, I think theme is something that you can't really avoid. Even if you don't consciously intend to put a theme in your story, it's going to find its way in, whether you want it to or not. Our thoughts, opinions, and life experiences inform nearly everything we do, and when we express ourselves artistically they're going to come out, even it it's only on a subconscious level.

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  15. Hi Lee .. writing comes from the heart - if it does that .. then it'll be believable and true unto us - others may not like it .. but so be it.

    Interesting thought - cheers Hilary

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  16. That's really something the author has to decide for himself. There is nothing that dictates that it be one way or the other.

    And, you know, authors can get away with filling their works with all kinds of crazy beliefs. Look at L Ron Hubbard.

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  17. If you feel like expressing something, nothing in the world should stop you. (Unless you feel like expressing "Fire!" in a crowded theater, of course.)

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  18. I think we have to be true to ourselves in our writing. We each have a unique voice, and I don't think it can be silenced. Your thoughts and beliefs will come through loud and clear without you trying. They already do.

    Personally, I love historical fiction because it combines two loves. It might not be the most accurate historically, but it does give a sense of time and place and thoughts and mores at the time.

    I think you should follow your heart and write what you want.
    Tina @ Life is Good
    http://kmdlifeisgood.blogspot.com/

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  19. I always object to books that feel infused with issues and the writer's own opinions. If it's done subtley it can be good though. Maybe it's all in the way it's finessed.

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  20. Write about the things that are important to you. They'll turn off some readers, but they'll make for more powerful writing.

    Or just go for what really interests you, which in my case is deeply silly.

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  21. DG -- Subtlety is best. I don't like getting beat over the head with a message.

    JW -- I think you're right about theme being present, but I wonder if sometimes over analysis tries to derive a theme an author never intended. Should the author stand for something from the outset to prevent that from happening?

    Hilary -- Should the heart trump the commercial viability?

    Andrew -- Or Ayn Rand. Or many others. You are correct about this.

    Kelly -- Sometimes certain ideas are the social equivalent of shouting "Fire!" in a crowded theater. Reputations can be squashed or enhanced by the enemies or friends our writing makes.

    Tina -- This is the advice I mostly follow, but still there are some places I have avoided so far.

    Johanna -- You and me both. More than anything I want what I write to make readers think a bit.

    Stu -- It's probably best to experiment. That's what blogs are good for.

    Lee

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  22. I think our personalities and our beliefs infuse our writing - I don't think we can do it otherwise. I don't know if I have any extreme views so I don't think I have to worry about that :)

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  23. BLOG of the Year 2012" Award.
    If you would like to pick it up, please go to my own blog:

    http://jeanettesandersen.blogspot.com

    There are the rules for you to follow and your Award to pick up.

    Congratulations - I just LOVE your blog posts - I do admire your talent and I'm convinced you deserve it!

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  24. Who we are always comes through, whether we want it to or not.

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  25. I think a writer needs to use wisdom and know their audience. Even though science is the baseline for my books, I have a spiritual theme as well. Angels. Demons. Stuff like that

    I think I can reach a wider audience this way. I may lose some along the way, but I think it is one step backwards and three steps forward.

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  26. Jemi -- I don't think I have any extreme views either, but I'm sure there are some very vocal factions who would see some of my views as extremist and make a big deal out of them. I tend to be very rational thinking for the most part.

    Jeanette -- Thank you. I will pay you a visit to check it out.

    L.Diane -- I think you are right for the most part, but I do think there are certain populist writers who step carefully.

    Stephen -- I like where your writing comes from. I tend to lean in that direction as well.

    Lee

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  27. That's a good question, and I don't have an answer other than to say that it depends on what is the most important to you. Why do you write? Do you write to entertain or to educate? A combination of both? I think the only way to decide if it's okay is to decide which outcome you prefer.

    Shannon at The Warrior Muse

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  28. That is thought provoking, inspirational and frightening...yikes...
    Personally I believe the writers job is to tell their story, people will like it or hate it. If you tell a good story, it will find readers..

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  29. I'd say there is a place for both - and I hope you are incorporating some juggling too :)

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  30. Oh to be a writer whose basic premise is grabbed by the intelligentsia and converted into a masterpiece by their own brilliance. A painting used by them to reflect their opinion of their own genius. We use words to try and make coherent a story. If your face fits they will turn those rudimentary tools into expressions of unimagined depth and insight.

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  31. Shannon -- I'm sure there is no one simple answer that is applicable to all writers. You are right that this must be addressed individually.

    Doreen -- I am convinced that any writing that makes any kind of sense will find its niche. How big that niche will be is part of the answer to the question.

    carma -- There is probably not only a place for both, but for many. We all have our own special juggling acts to perform.

    SK -- Writing success as with success in any creative endeavor probably is pretty serendipitous in the end.

    Lee

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  32. Lots of levels when writing. The story. The meanings. The hints...etc. I love it when stories are more than just the story. :) I try to do that a little with each of my stories.

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  33. Just wanted to leave a question for our team:

    Assuming all family and pets are safe and you have time to grab ONE item as you head out the door of your burning (or flooding, or name your disaster), what would you grab?

    Tina @ Life is Good
    http://kmdlifeisgood.blogspot.com/

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  34. I think it says something about our education system that we assume that learning and entertaining fall into two different categories. For me the height of enjoyment and entertainment is when I have learned something new,or seen it from a new perspective, or juxtaposed to an idea I had yet to make such an association with. I used to write non-fiction until it hit me-why no do the ultimate "show don't tell" and let the reader watch someone learning the idea or experience the author would like to convey.

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Lee