Monday, September 04, 2006

Fiction is so subjective, yes! (paca)

As I've mentioned before, I read several publishing industry blogs. I spend most time probably on Evil Editor's blog. He is an anonymous editor who makes fun of author query letters and drops some useful hints along the way. There's also Miss Snark and Kristin Nelson, who are literary agents. On almost all the blogs, it will come up that judging fiction, or just judging writing, is pretty darn subjective. Some things that might appeal to one agent or one reader just won't appeal to someone else. Usually, this is viewed as either a damnation of literature or just an annoying fact that we all have to live with. However, upon reflection, this is not only a fact to deal with, it is critical for fiction to be worth anything.

Authors write for a lot of reasons, of course. Sometimes it is for fame and fortune; sometimes it is to look good at a cocktail party; sometimes it's a form of personal therapy where the author gets out what's on their mind; but more than any of those things, authors usually want to connect with readers. That's why they seek publication other than to earn a living. They want their words to create a certain experience in another person, usually just for the person to enjoy themselves, but it could be far more as well.

But if the purpose of writing a story is to connect to another person, then almost by definition, writing is going to be subjective. Each reader is different and brings different experiences to the story. The only way to make writing "objective" would be to remove the reader from the equation. Of course if you do that, then you have removed the purpose in writing in the first place.

So literature is subjective and if it weren't why bother writing?

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

"Why bother writing if not for the reader?" you ask?

Well how about for the writer? Some writers write simply to clear out over packed chaotic minds and not just personal or emotional writing, but the sheer fact of knowing so much random information that it is near impossible to piece together inside one's head and what better way than as a story line to give it simplified chronological order. Like piecing together a puzzle, to see the big picture...

or as a way to not forget one's dreams...

or to help a person who has trouble distingushing between reality and fiction in the head, whom needs a safe place to go where the threat of craziness is no where to be found...

for me personally, the novel i'm working on now is a story that began in my mind over 15 years ago and has been evoling ever since, but with the abundance of knowledge in my head, be them facts or theroies, fantatsies, it makes me crazy and i have decided putting it all together down "on paper" is a way to discharge it from my mind. for me, its all 3 above, i have had friends say they can't wait to read my novel and buy it, however, its not for them, its for me, at least right now...

think of the movie "big fish" where the father is telling a story to his son about his life. the son becomes enraged becasue the father tells his life story as if it was a fairytale, but to that man, his life is a fairytale, that is how he saw saw the world around him...

at a writing workshop once at a comic book con with neil gaiman and he said to everyone, "as to your story, you are God, its your story and you can do whatever you want with it, anyone can tell you its bad or good, but it never denies that its your story and you are God over it."

court

pacatrue said...

Wow, Court, that was your coolest comment ever! Except for when you tell me that I rock, which is always better, though you always forget to say how you yourself rock even more.... That makes no sense.

Yes, writing is for many, many things. My thought was just that writing is like a conversation. Instead of the medium being air where the person is a few inches to yards away, in writing, the medium is, well, it's lots of things, but it is some sort of surface with visual marks and there can be vast distances in space and time between the conversation partners. Due to writing, I can listen to Plato, which for you and me is quite cool. Plato I am sure had lots of reasons for writing, including organizing his thoughts, but he also wanted to talk to people. (OK, Plato is kind of a bad example because he wanted people to also memorize the dialogues and be able to recite them from living memory.) Writing is also a conversation. And if it is a conversation that means there are two people participating. Since that is the case, the effect of the writing is going to be subjective.

You know, I don't think I really know how to hold a conversation. I only know how to discuss and debate. I don't know if I this is just me or is my philosophy training, but I have a real hard time, especially in writing, talking to people where I don't try to elaborate and clarify points and the like. I think I am good at being very kind - I am not annoyingly argumentative, but I always still debate. What's up with that?

Oops, gotta run so I am not late meeting N and B. Hope this thing doesn't have too many crazy typos.