Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Terrifying Versions of the Truth


Ross Macdonald in his Foreword to Archer at Large mentions another or related impetus to writing besides a sense of alienation.
To call it "another" is an artificial distinction, perhaps.
Perhaps not.
That we draw on our experience, our memories, is a given, and as he describes , they break

"...free of my actual life and my rather murky feelings, into the clearer and more ordered world where fiction lays out its concentrated, terrifying versions of the truth. Fiction, when it is working well, lifts out of the writer's life patterns which tend toward the legendary. But the patterns are disrupted and authenticated by bits and pieces of the original life stuff - names and places, scraps of conversation, old feelings and forces like spawning salmon working their way back up the stream of time."

Macdonald recognized, then developed, a certain Opediean theme in his own work (The Galton Case) of a nameless boy searching for his father ( he and his mother had been abandoned, if I read the biographical inference right.)
This conscious recognition not only enhanced his plot but presumeably had a certain therapeutic benefit.
One does not presume to claim that all writers reach for the archetypal, but likely patterns emerge.
Why not?
Dennie ( see sidebar) mentioned in one of her posts that she had certain "issues," such as ghosts and a fear of heights.
We all have them - our dark fears and our defeats.
We are all entitled to our personal issues - in fact I doubt if it's "normal" to be without them - no matter how amusing others may find them and sometimes deride them.
The trick, as Stephen King alludes in On Writing, is to recognize and quietly enhance them within the work.
Have you found themes and patterns, individualized within your own writing?

P.S. It's Ric's birthday. He can be found at the (side) bar. Happy Birthday, Ric. All good things to you.

Beggar's bush, go (home) by: to be ruined; late 16th-19th c.
Beggar's plush: corduroy or perhaps cotton velvet; late 17th-18th c. colloquial.
Beggar's velvet: downy matter accumulating under furniture; 19th-20th c. obsolete; colloquial.
Belch: (1) beer, especially if inferior and apt to cause same; from about 1690; obsolete. (2) to eructate; 11th-20th c.; standard English until mid 19th c., then a vulgarism.

25 comments:

Tsavo Leone said...

I must admit that certain issues I have with the world at large do tend to find their way into my writing (reading about the most recent Turner prize inspired Venus Made Flesh). Likewise I will utilise semi-autobiographical anecdotes (the final few paragraphs and punchline of Junk In The Trunk for instance) and snippets of conversations... but only if they work within the context of the tale I'm telling, and if I can write them in such a way as to not detract from the pure imaginings surrounding them.

Additionally, my own personal interests help inform some of my writing, hence my treatment of the idea Bernita first voiced in The Soul Stone (in addition to borrowing liberally from other sources).

No author is a closed book - any writer worth reading will draw upon a multitude of sources for both their inspiration and then the execution of that idea, be they bad dreams, flights of fancy, painful memories, or simply reading an interesting article in yesterday's newspaper.

Bernita said...

Junk in the Trunk is an excellent example of the utilization of the ordinary, Tsavo.
It's very well done, with the driving details that contrast and ground it.
One can imagine the immediate and automatic sniffing of the air for putrefaction by the passengers, the slowly dawning horror,the uneasy denial, etc.
I find a consistent desire in my own to illustrate the supernatural and debunk it at the same time.

Savannah Jordan said...

Boy, given my chosen genre, it is hard to say how much I draw, or do not draw, from real life, or attempt to emulate it. Erotica writers get confused enough with their work...

Certain aspects of my life do filter into my writing. Certain concepts, actions, events are expounded on, and then the heat is turned up, so to speak... Sensual Beldam, for example is a compilation of past actions,current obsessions and then tempered into the the vignette that it is.

So, does real life affect my writing? Yes. Is my writing a direct distillation of my life? No.

Bernita said...

This confusion, or perhaps, desire by readers to relate/identify a writer to their work is an interesting thing, Savannah.
Sometimes I wonder if it had its genesis in the fact that some early fiction was presented in the form of a journal, a supposedly "authentic" account.
The ferret mentality ( or incapacity to disassociate) of some readers can inhibit some writers, I've no doubt, from types of genres. We've all seen the "don't write anything you wouldn't want your mother/church group/neighbours to read!"
On the other hand, it can be an excellent, exploitable platform.
Quite fascinating.

Sandra Ruttan said...

Yes, there are definitely recurring themes in my writing.

And I'm too traumatized to talk about them here...

Savannah Jordan said...

That is a quandry that I struggle with nearly daily, Bernita! And, the genesis, impetus if you will, behind 'Savannah'; a voice for that writing within me that would not seem appropriate in the modern mundacity of Michigan.

It is a great concern of DH that any connections between the erotica writing and ME ever get made on a local level. He has even used the reference of 'don't say/don't write/don't blog that which you would not want published in the local newspaper.'

*sigh*

Bernita said...

It might greatly improve the local paper, Savannah.
But that's what pseudonyms are for.
Saw recently an editorial comment about a description of a perfectly straighforward, normal medical procedure described as
"not for the squeamish."
My reaction was quite vulgar.
Some people are so dainty minded.

Call them archetypes, Sandra. Provides a remove, and a "literary" tone.
Then some will nod wisely and say "that's deep" and be twice as impressed.

Dennie McDonald said...

I do have a theme (unconscious at first) that runs through 85% of my books. ALWAYS there is a major misunderstanding as to one of the main characters - usually one doesn't realize who they are dealing with at first - I had someone try to psycho-analize me on this and say it was becasue I was hiding my true self - yada, yada - I don't know - I am a 30-something housewife with a propensity to die my hair (often), who gave birth to 4 wonderful/rambunctious boys and the butt to prove it - what's to hide!

I also tend to have sarcastic-ness in my writing - imagine that

Bernita said...
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Bernita said...

Pah.
More apt to reveal (a) you're a natural story-teller, ie. misunderstandings are a great plot device; and (b) one of your fears/regrets/dislikes is being misunderstood, so you know the tension it creates.
That's my 2-cent psychoanalysis.

Dennie McDonald said...

Well, that is probably true! I worry over-much about what other people think or if I said the wrong thing. Or if they thought I said the wrong thing... =)

Oh and I forgot - Happy Birthday, Ric!

Bonnie Calhoun said...

I have an adversion to clowns...I haven't used that in a book yet. I don't know how it would fit, but it's an idea. I never thought about this subject. I'll have to go back and look through things to see if I've used "my" issues.

I know i pattern characters after other individuals that I know...Maybe this is a bigger issue and I need "the couch" Why do I aviod my issues in my writing????

Ric...Happy Birthday!

Ric said...

Morning, everyone. Thanks for the Birthday greetings. Makes me feel loved.

Writing, I think, always includes some autobiographical elements. All my heroes are slightly built - I have no possible reference to weighing over 125 pounds. Have no clue what that might be like. My daughter had a boyfriend 6 foot 6 with a 19 inch neck. He told me it was a big problem in sales, that he had to teach himself to stoop down so he wouldn't intimidate customers. Who would have thought such a thing?

Little things sneak in like Bob Segar instead of Bruce Springsteen. Red roses instead of yellow. I'm pretty sure we all do it.

ivan said...

Great blogger think alike?

Author solipsism (that's a big word, like llama dung)is a recurring theme in blogs right now.
I notice in http://www.grandinite.com, ordinarily an economics site, there is a post, "Question: Who Am I?"
Aaron Braaten suggests, on his site:
1) In one word, name the things you repeatedly do.
2)Now tell a short story how you came to do these things over and over again.
Hardly anybody is asking for short stories to do with the self these days; might be an opportunity.

Erik Ivan James said...

Everything I write has some connection to my own experiences/exposures, direct and indrect. In addition, I often find myself venting through writing those things I might not otherwise be inclined to say or do in person.

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Tsavo Leone said...

Erik makes a valid point concerning what he, as an author, can say and yet which, as a person, he possibly cannot.

There have been arguments put forward on several occasions for authors being something of a social conscience, their work directly questioning the ethics and morals of the day. Sci-Fi, for one, has long been seen in certain circles as a playground in which to explore certain social codes and values, rife as it is with analogies and metaphors.

Bernita said...

I don't like clowns either, Bonnie.
Seems many people don't.
I think that it goes well beyond "issues", into simple recurring patterns of ideas.
I could not, for example, write a book where evil triumphs, the good guys must win.In a small way I have a thing about hair.

We do love you, Ric.

The exposition of principles and beliefs is expected, I think, Erik.

Also, Tsavo, there is the assumption, that BECAUSE writers postulates a new and different society ( or retreat to an old one), that ergo, they are dissatisfied with the present one - which is not always the case.

Ivan, either learn some manners or don't come back.

Rick said...

I'm sure that bits and pieces of my real life slip into my work, but hopelessly entangled with stuff I've made up. Values slip in more obviously - not (I hope) anachronisms, but outlooks I have an underlying sympathy toward.

Readers do indeed imagine, or want to believe, that stories reflect the author's life. My wife is forever saying "I wonder if that's what happened to the author," in spite of my own stuff being so remote from my real life.

Ric, I'd give you a K for your birthday, but it would just be confusing, and anyway you'd most likely stick it on a back shelf and forget you even had it.

Ric said...

Clowns? Fear of clowns? I begin to wonder about you ladies.

Rick, the 'k' has been on the back shelf since I was sixteen and, yes, I forget I even had it.

Bernita, expand that hair comment. That clearly is something I can identify with.

Bernita said...

I doubt if any anachronisms have slipped in, Rick, in view of your careful and considerate comments we've seen displayed here.
Is your wife's curiosity confined to certain genres? Can see murder mystery writers blench at the thought.

Hair, Ric?
I have long hair. I associate long hair with femininity - a sort of tertiary sexual characteristic, I suppose.

Oh you mean GUY's hair.
Lack of hair on a guy is not un-sexy ( Jean-Luc Picard - which see). Lack of chest hair isn't either.
I'll stop there.

Gabriele C. said...

Happy Birthday, Ric.

Of course, I draw upon my own experiences and 'issues' to add depth to my characters, but none of them is me in disguise. I draw even more from books I've read and stir the mix throughly. :)

Ric said...

Actually was talking about women's hair. Supposing your heroines have long hair - all mine do, I find it sexy as well.

All the men have hair too, as do I, blessed among my bretheren.

Gabriele C. said...

My men tend to have long hair, as far as their culture allows or even demands (so, short hair for the Romans, √Čomer style manes for the freeborn Goths).

Bernita said...

"stir the mix thoroughly"

Very well-put, Gabriele.
Most writers strive for that, I think. Autobiography - which can be excruciatingly tedious - isn't really the name of the game.