"Yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of technique..."...I shall fear no evil, for Art is with me."
Pretty obscure start, I suppose, but I have always been aware of the deadly influence of technique on my work when I'm struggling to get it under my belt. The work becomes wooden, self-conscious, earthbound. So I came up with my mangled version of the 23rd Psalm to get me through. The goal though is to master the technical so the work grows more lucid and its effect more potent, even while the technique is rendered invisible.
In the last few years I've gone beyond both my love affair with words and my burning desire to capture human experience with them. I've worked to learn the technical aspects of structure, timing, dynamics, development. Ow, ow , ow, it is often miserable going.
I came across these writing tips from Vonnegut this afternoon. I've been touched by his stance, a simple human decency in the face of absurdity, so I gave them a good looking-over. Here they are:
1. Use the time of a total stranger in such a way that he or she will not feel the time was wasted.
2. Give the reader at least one character he or she can root for.
3. Every character should want something, even if it is only a glass of water.
4. Every sentence must do one of two things — reveal character or advance the action.
5. Start as close to the end as possible.
6. Be a sadist. No matter how sweet and innocent your leading characters, make awful things happen to them — in order that the reader may see what they are made of.
7. Write to please just one person. If you open a window and make love to the world, so to speak, your story will get pneumonia.
8. Give your readers as much information as possible as soon as possible. To heck with suspense. Readers should have such complete understanding of what is going on, where and why, that they could finish the story themselves, should cockroaches eat the last few pages.