it's a great life, if you don't weaken (matociquala) wrote,
it's a great life, if you don't weaken

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We saw HGttG Friday night/Saturday morning, thus assuring I would be fresh as a daisy for the SNAFFU event. Zzzzzz.

I actually really enjoyed it. For fifteen or twenty minutes. Not all together. Alas. And I thought the dolphin thing was painfully twee, thus proving again that there is stuff that everybody else loves that I just don't get, at all.

Also, could the actress playing Trillian be any stiffer? No? I thought not.

John Malkovich was fun, though totally wasted. And Bill Nighy was sort of my inner ideal Slartibartfast, although I kept expecting Arthur to turn to him and say, "You're not my dad!"

So, today I want to talk about symbols.

Specifically, I want to talk about something I realized yesterday about the "reader's 50%."

Now, I read a lot of amateur fiction. On workshops, in slush. And the best thing about it, when I was learning the actual storytelling part of my trade, was that amateur fiction is often broken in obvious ways. Which is why I recommend slush reading or workshops to anybody who's trying to learn to write; it helps you learn to spot mistakes, because the misakes are more obvious. In published work, the mistakes (presuming there are any) are often disguised under layers of craft, rather than parading around without a scrap to cover their shame, so to speak.

I also have been known to read fanfiction, often by chasing links on my friends list (Yeah yeah, spare me the lecture. I'm thoroughly fascinated by the folk process, and how it works, and if you can find me a purer modern version of the folk process, I'll listen, but--)

So anyway, one thing I've noticed is that often writers who are still working on certain aspects of their craft (the story-constructing part) will start off with an interesting set of ideas... and apparently not even realize what their subconscious has set up. At that point, they'll veer off into some other thing, a surfacy and much less interesting story, but one that they think they want to be writing. (I can only assume.)

Here's what I think is going on.

The part of the brain that handles story doesn't deal with words, logical connections, plot, and so on. It deals with symbols, connections, layers, uncomfortable truths, paradoxes, and archetypes. It hauls this stuff out of the id, dripping, and parades it around, because this stuff satisfies it.

and the inexperienced writer may be scared of that story stuff, and so he tries to wrench a logical linear story out of it, and it winds up feeling a bit like Kubrick pitched over dead on the set one day, and Spielberg took over, and where the hell did these aliens come from? Get me out from under this ferris wheel! aaaaaaaaaaaa!

The problem is, all we've got as writers to communicate that stuff is words.So part of the process of learning to construct a narrative is to translate those symbols into other symbols--words--that the conscious mind can manipulate into a superficially pleasing pattern.

Without losing that underlying sense, the squid, the stuff-of-story bubbling around down there in the backbrain, blubbling.

Now here's the tricky part. Along the way, we need to learn to trust that stuff of story to have its own internal inductive rather than deductive logic. And we have to structure that logic into the deductive logic of the story in such a way that the reader can decode it, re-encode it into his own atavistic symbol set, and get a satisfying story out of it.

Which won't be the story we started with. Because while we've translated it from Coptic to Urdu, and he's translating from Urdu to French.

But eventually we learn the magic trick of presenting it in such a way that he can uncode it into his story, one that satisfies his atavisic archetype monster. And that's the trick of it.

And that's the reader's 50%.

And on that note, shower. And pants. And off to meet the public.

See you tomorrow; talk amonst yourselves.
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