I began writing with the intent to develop it as an art form sometime around 2011.

Reading has helped the process a great deal: literature, generally about 3-4 books a month, and how-to-books like Barbara Turner Vasselago's "Writing Without a Parachute."

Recently in a second hand bookshop, I found a copy of "Introduction to Literature" by Barnet, Burto and Cain - a !)! course for uni students. It's been the most fabulous resource yet. Full of terribly simple statements of literary principles about what makes language into art, illustrated with brilliant examples and followed with good questions. Things like:

We read literature at least in part for the pleasure of the play of words; just as we might watch a ballet or an Olympic gymnast to enjoy the beauty of excellence in movement.

Good prose narratives are carefully constructed. Every fact, every word, is necessary to the story as a whole, nothing less and nothing more.

Setting, characters, plot and theme are all mutually necessary to one another. Characters behave as they do because of the setting and circumstance. Good characters are rounded and complex. Their motivations are compelled by the nature and force of their personalities. Characters are changed by each other and by what occurs, so that plot and characters evolve together in mutual symbiosis. The meaning that arises out of the story is its theme.

When we read fiction we don't expect the literal truth, but we expect some insight, at the very least a sense of what some aspect of life means for the writer.

One thing that is not said in the book, or not yet (since I haven't finished it,) is that we do expect truth of a kind - or at least I do. I want to find an expression of what is perenially true for human nature, irrespective of cultural specifics. For instance in "Palace Walk" or "The Kite Runner" we see two Muslim writers each revealing the complexities of hypocrisy within devout Muslim cultures - and we discover, by comparison with our own experience of the West, that its absolutely no different to the hypocrisies in Christian culture. There's a truth there that transcends time and place, that no matter how thoroughly developed our morals are, it is remarkably difficult for people to live by them. And it enables us to soften and feel more compassion for the pain of our flaws.

So I see writing as a passage towards possible wisdom, a way to distil experience and make sense of it, and to find meaning in in the processes of life.

hartfire hartfire
56-60, F
Apr 6, 2016