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Tag: quotes

A non-writing writer

“A non-writing writer is a monster inviting madness.”

—Franz Kafka in a letter to Max Brod

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Let your characters do the suffering

“In stories, in the worlds that we can go into, there’s suffering, confusion, darkness, tension, and anger. There are murders; there’s all kinds of stuff. But the filmmaker doesn’t have to be suffering to show suffering. You can show it, show the human condition, show conflicts and contrasts, but you don’t have to go through that yourself. You are the orchestrator of it, but you’re not in it. Let your characters do the suffering. It’s common sense: The more the artist is suffering, the less creative he is going to be. It’s less likely that he is going to enjoy his work and less likely that he will be able to do really good work.”

—David Lynch (found here)

Interesting. Someone (not a writer) was telling me recently that the best time to write is while crying. I thought at once of Wordsworth’s “emotion recollected in tranquility.” Which is the best: while suffering, after suffering, or as Lynch says, without suffering at all?

Characters’ desire vs. characters’ power

“Pairing a character’s desire with their power isn’t an easy process, and it often doesn’t happen until the story is pretty well fleshed out. Usually this is because any desire is, generally, pretty achievable for a powerful enough character. So you often either need to tone down their power, increase their desire, or increase the opposition to their desire.”

—Rahul Kanakia (x)

If this is true I’m doomed

“My very first writing teacher, Max Steele, once told our class that we would never be the writers we were meant to be until we had dealt with our mother issues. I heard this as an eighteen year old and it is something I have thought about ever since. In fact, in my own writing classes, I refer to it as: if it’s not one thing, it’s your mother and have been both surprised and delighted over the years to see how often a character’s mother, or the absent mother, ends up being the key to whatever is missing.”

—Jill McCorkle (x)

A review of The Idiot

“[Dostoyevsky’s novel The Idiot] starts off brilliantly; the whole first part (of four) carries the reader along seamlessly from the Prince’s meeting with Rogozhin on the train to the party where Nastasya Filippovna hurls the money into the fire. What characters, what imagination, what energy! And what a letdown when you turn the page to Part Two and discover that six months have passed and the garrulous narrator is babbling about rumors and uncertainty and suddenly we’re plunged into fairly incomprehensible family affairs of uncertain relevance to anything we’ve been concerned with, and everyone goes off to Pavlovsk for increasingly unconvincing interactions.”

—Steve Dodson (language hat), here

I suppose Dodson, and the many who agree with him, are right about Part Two. I enjoyed it despite its flaws.

Hard and not much fun

“In his author’s note in the 1995 Best American Short Stories, [Steven] Polansky said that ‘Leg’ was ‘hard, and not much fun, to write.’ This was a new one to me — but he was on to something. My best work since then has been the stuff that has made me the most uncomfortable, and that I have been the most anxious about sending out into the world.”

—J. Robert Lennon (x)

On prose quality

“Sometimes [what draws me into a story is] a matter of style, but not always, since a compelling world can survive clumsy or awkward writing, as in Poe or David Foster Wallace (in Wallace’s case the awkwardness is deliberate, of course). “

—Iain Higgins, member of The Malahat Review‘s fiction board

On Henry James and that thing he does

“He splits hairs until there are no longer any hairs to split, and the mental gesture becomes merely the making of agitated passes over a complete and disconcerting baldness.”

—Rebecca West (x)

On the thrill of writing fiction

[T]hat sense of life, that feeling that I’m telling myself a story—you’d think it’d be something very easy to conjure up—what I mean is that you’d think after a while it would come more easily, and I’d be able to conjure it up whenever I sit down to write—but the opposite is true—that feeling becomes harder and harder to capture—and yet when you do—when you actually grab hold of it—the feeling is so astonishing, because it really is nothing like reading a story. Reading a story is a dream within a dream compared to the writing of a story. There’s just something so real about a story that you write yourself. It lives inside of you in the way that no other story can.”

—Rahul Kanakia (x)

An encouraging thing?

“Ten thousands things have to spark all at the same time, and cohere into a good hot flame, before a story results for me. I can still count the stories I’ve begun and finished on one hand.”

—Kai Ashante Wilson (x, found in a comment here)