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on writing

I'm reading this very-interestingly-written novel by Fiona Maazel titled Last Last Chance, and on page 176 I stumbled across this truism that really hit home for me, as spoken by a recently-deceased character:
    I once heard a writer say that though it's hard to get characters to perform basic functions without feeling like a jackass, it must be done. As he put it, "Even Proust had to open the window."

I've quite consciously in the latter years of my writing made sure that the characters did normal things like eat, go to the bathroom, be aware of time, pick up and put down pens/cigarettes/glasses. I just loved how this character in this novel phrased that.

Just wanted to share! Oh, and the book is quite the read. Maazel's style is quite unlike anything I've read before. Vivid and unexpected turns of phrase and descriptors. A lot of fun to read.

This entry was originally posted at http://thrihyrne.dreamwidth.org/514056.html. Please comment there using OpenID.


( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
Dec. 12th, 2013 02:26 am (UTC)
You know, I don't know if it's my style or the fact I write mostly vignettes and short stories, but this has never seemed such an issue in my writing. It's not that I actually show them going to the bathroom; it's that in my head I am writing them in the space between such trivialities. Those needs press in again, no doubt, but they press in once I'm actually done writing. I do describe little things they do, like Sherlock bending down to pick up a discarded memory stick or Bilbo sitting up too quickly after his concussion and having to collapse back into the pillows, but even there those things have a purpose. It's to pull them out of thought or show a more human side or something.

All of which is my way of saying: godspeed to the authors for whom this is an issue. It seems like it would have to be awkward.
Dec. 13th, 2013 02:31 pm (UTC)
Doubtless there is a fine line between revealing nearly everything (to show how 'real' it all is, or for whatever reason) and not including any of it. And as you point out, for a shorter story, or a story in which not much time passes, that kind of bringing out in words the minutiae of actions probably isn't necessary. And depending on the style of story and writing style, again, may or may not be appropriate. I think once I began writing and especially beta reading for a lot of people, I became very aware of what stories seemed more real than others, and much of those qualities had to do with the occasional touches of explicitly mentioning a mundane action for one character or another. It can certainly be overdone, as in something I'm reading now. Not the novel I mentioned in the post. Her style is quite unique; metaphors and similes that have jumped out at me due to originality, and such vivid dialogue and observations and a (as Tim Gunn might say) wackadoo plot that yet makes all the sense in the world. Thankfully, I'm not comparing my writing style to hers and I'm able simply to thoroughly enjoy it without comparing myself to her as an author. :)
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )

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