Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Who's In Charge Here, Anyway?

Some of the material for the2 Year Novel course at Forward Motion has got me thinking about the creative process. Always a bad idea.

One of the comments Zette made in one of her discussions was that the writer has to take control of writing the novel. Letting the characters dictate the course of the plot is reliquishing responsibility and control over your writing process and almost always leads to trouble.

I certainly recognize the need for the writer to take and maintain control over the writing to a great extent, but there's a high wire you have to walk in doing that. Funny how many of those delicate balances I keep running across as I explore this whole creativity vs. craft dichotomy. In this case, you have to maintain overall control while leaving yourself open to those bolts of lightning that strike so often as a story develops.

Giving your characters their heads and letting them explore soem on their own is not a wholly bad thing to do. It's really just a way to let your subconscious mind speak to you and tell you what it is thinking about. While you can consciously control the craft of writing, the creativity, or art, if you will, comes in through this back door. You have to be sure to always leave it at least cracked.

The most important thing is to be ready. When the creative lightning strikes, you have to be ready to capture it, channel it appropriately and turn its wild, potentially destructive energy into controlled, usable electricity on the page. That's one of the biggest challenges facing a creative writer, and another one of those scary places where you cannot be completely in control. Riding the lightning is scary and exhilarating, and it's one of the reasons I love to write so much.

3 Comments:

At 7:49 PM, Blogger Jean said...

You're always in charge--even when you say your characters are. Personally, as long as I'm not using it as an excuse to either not do something or to do it poorly, I think it's fun to say the characters are running things.

The key, of course, is to know who really has control.

 
At 9:16 PM, Blogger Carter said...

Jean, I guess you're right in the sense that everything comes out of my mind, but there really are times when I am not completely consciously in control. It's those neat little surprises that I didn't see coming that are so exciting. The control part comes in taking all those ideas, sorting them out, and turning the ones that work into a readable work of fiction.

Ultimately, I do have control over what words go onto the page, but I have found that I can't try to force things into a pre-conceived pattern. that never works for me.

 
At 3:51 PM, Blogger HawkOwl said...

I think the "flash of lightning" method is actually detrimental both to one's writing and one's development as a writer. First, if you are not writing out of your conscious mind, the reader's conscious mind is going to find gaping holes in your construct; and second, if you are not generating your ideas consciously, you are gonna be stuck for ideas when you need to move the story along and get 'er done. And meanwhile you are not learning to make things work. You are just faking it and calling it "inspiration" rather than "grasping at straws." (And by "you" I mean "one," of course, not you personally.) That's fine if writing is a hobby, but if you're hoping to write in a commercially viable way, I think you have to ditch the "muse," "flash of lightning," "talking characters" system and take charge of creative direction yourself.

 

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