Friday, February 27, 2009

Tag Team Post - Bonnie and Kathleen- Will Write for Love

We're talking about story this week on Novel Matters - the ones that mattered to us growing up, the ones that matter now - and the ones we are hoping to find in the future.

Reading engages us, shapes us and our culture. We know this to be true. But why? Why does it have such powerful sway over all of us? Well, according to Ray Bradbury the answer is: Love and vomit.




Kathleen says: Bradbury's little chapbook, Zen in the Art of Writing, was the first book on the craft I ever loved, and it's still a favorite. In it, he writes, "Every morning I jump out of bed and step on a landmine. The landmine is me. After the explosion, I spent the rest of the day putting the pieces together."Messy writer, isn't he? But what about those authors among us who carefully plan their stories before they write a single paragraph? What do explosions and vomit have to do with an outline?

Bonnie says: Explosions have everything to do with writing – outlines, plots, voice, characters, you name it. The explosion of self, the intentional dissection of what it means to be human, to feel, to die, to love, to suffer alone is daily in the life of a writer. Ray Bradbury speaks eloquently of the vomiting mess, the explosive chaos, the dizzying heights of love as the essence of writing because writing is, at its heart, the rendering of bare truth told in the most universal way possible. Writing a story takes courage, because it will always out you. It will always shine light on the buried source of that which makes us human. That is why we must write what we love. We couldn’t bear it otherwise.

Kathleen says: So even if you plot out your novel before you start writing, you can still spill your passion all over that plot. The key is, don't think. Just on paper, do a Jackson Pollock with your impulses, thoughts, ideas. Get angry. Get ridiculously joyful. Cry your private tears in public. What does your character do next? Quick, quick: what's the wildest thing she could do? What is the one thing that everyone says, "Oh no. No, no, not that! Noooo don't do that." But they secretly hope she will.

The story is the framework for how we organize and talk about the human experience. It's the frame that forces us to make sense, make connections, make magic on the page. The raw material for story is your own story - which, when turned into artful prose, becomes everyone's story.

8 comments:

Debbie Fuller Thomas said...

Ray Bradbury's writing has inspired me since I first read Ylla's story in The Martian Chronicles in high school. He writes with such beauty and abandon. My favorite quote from Zen and the Art of Writing is about plumbing the depths of your own experiences (no matter how disturbing) and writing about it "I leave you now at the bottom of your own stair, at half after midnight, with a pad, a pen, and a list to be made." Love him!

Debbie Fuller Thomas said...

Oops! I'd like to add that I'm one of those outline writers who always has one hand on the trigger of the explosion. I like to think my long fuse ultimately results in the same explosion as a short fuse, but who knows? Maybe I'll forgo the outline once and see.

Patti Hill said...

Debbie, your quote made me think of Joyce Carol Oates. When I read her short story Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been, it was "midnight" at the bottom of my stairs. My heart raced, my throat tightened, and my skin went clammy. Oates made the protagonist, Connie, face her personal devil. All the time I'm reading, I'm thinking, Slam the door shut. Lock it! Don't listen to him! No, no, no! Don't go with him!

If you're Jan Karon, writing a story about an Episcopal priest discovering the joys and heartaches of fatherhood or Joyce Carol Oates, menacing a young girl with her self-importance, it's not whether you outline or not, it's making the reader care about the characters. And then you throw rocks at them. Sometimes we through boulders, and sometimes we throw pebbles.

Steve G said...

Now we're talking! Explosions and vomit, and something about Mars. Now if only there was a dog named Max around here somewhere...

Great post. I like the banter format (BF). Stuff is always better when you pour yourself into it, whether writing or preaching or teaching or cutting grass - it is (can be) all art, yes? I agree - the ability to write what is common in all of us makes for great reading.

Debbie Fuller Thomas said...

I agree with Steve about the banter and the vomit. And I love it when my neighbor mows his yard in a checkerboard pattern.

Bonnie Grove said...

It sounds so easy to say, "Pour yourself into your work", or "the bottom of your own stair" (when I read those words, I picture, not a climb, but me lying crumbled at the bottom after a fall - dark as that sounds).

But it isn't easy at all. And sometimes it is painful. Sometimes you just want to hit "delete" not because the words on the page aren't brilliant, but because it hurts so much just to look at them.

Keli Gwyn said...

Hi Ladies,

I wanted to let you know that I've given your site the Premio Dardos award. You can see my post at Romance Writers on the Journey at http://tinyurl.com/RWotJ-blogawards.

Mott said...

Congrats on the award, ladies--well deserved!