steady, part ii

I gather that there were a few different responses to the last post:

  • I have no idea what you’re saying – or
  • I think I know what you mean – well put, maybe – or
  • How did I get here? I was looking for

My pointless point was that if I craft my crafty wiles to craft a crafty piece of crafty prose (wow, that was more awkward typed out than I thought through in my head) – if I puff up a piece to bring about certain emotional responses without letting the story, the thesis, the experience itself evoke that response, then I feel it’s disingenuous and honestly, as a reader, I’d want my money back.

The commercials for Tim Burton’s ALICE IN WONDERLAND are taking on that tone for me right now. They are so full of pretty scenery and effects and magic and Johnny Depp that I’m afraid it’s all a cover-up for a lack of story. And for me, it’s still all about the story, dang it.

I feel that if I can maintain that even sense of writing, that “just the facts, ma’am” take on life, the universe and everything, then I can trust you to do the same. I can read comments full of agreement, argument, discussion, suggestion, critique, and together we can reason something out that is better than the sum of its parts. But if I manipulate the reader in directions that may not be warranted, that belie the truths of the story to fit some other agenda, then how am I going to trust the reader to not do the same?

The reader goes into a post, a novel, a screenplay, an audiobook, a film trusting the author, trusting the storyteller. If the author then misuses that trust, all bets are off and we’re falling down our own rabbit hole – aren’t we?

In short – too late, right? – in short, I’d like the story to evoke the response, quietly and surreptitiously beneath the surface, without the reader knowing it’s happening. I’d like the way words and ideas emerge on the screen to bring about something surprising, some “a-Ha” in the reader that’s real, meaningful and untampered with. I’d like to share a backhanded compliment, an around-the-bush depth with those taking the time to pause and ponder. And I’d like the reader, when finished and closing out, to still have a lingering aftertaste – because you as the Reader have invested as much in reading as I have in writing.

“Come now, let us reason together” implies to me that we are both working, both listening, and both open to being changed by the other. That’s writing for me, and that’s reading for me.


2 thoughts on “steady, part ii

  1. Alex says:

    While I do understand the main thrust of the post, there are some other related issues that could be addressed as well. I understand what you’re saying about just tell the story and don’t emote, let the consumer decide for himself what emotions the story will evoke. That’s a style issue – and while some authors are known for that, there are others who sell precisely because they manipulate people’s emotions in a way they desire. Planet of the Apes and Big Fish aside, I’m a pretty big Tim Burton fan, precisely because I know when I see one of his movies that I can expect certain things. Other people read horror because they want to be scared, and expect the story to lead them to a place where they are.

    I appreciate that there are writers who just write the story and let the readers make up their own minds how they feel about it, and others who nudge the readers down a particular path. It all depends on my mood which one I want. Good luck in keeping your writings in the chosen style – it’s a worthwhile goal.

  2. Rick says:

    As a fan of BIG FISH and even the first BATMAN films, I’m a Burton fan as well. I think what makes some of these stories work is that the work still surprises. For me, BIG FISH was more than the fantasies and dreams, in the end playing out more for the relationship father to son. You bring up horror stories – one of the scariest scenes ever to me was, I believe, in HALLOWEEN II – in the basement at the hospital, the about-to-be-killed teen is ripping open doors, the music is building, and you know with each open door he’s going to jump out, but never does, until the meat breathes a sigh of relief and slowly shuts a door and MM is right there with the kill shot. Built up towards a right jab, smacked you with the left hook. That’s entertainment. 🙂

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