Wednesday, October 2, 2013

fiction (teaching [fiction]) learning

From: the Archives of Washington University, St. Louis, MO

"[…] But you're a fiction writing professor. You're here for a reason. It would be perhaps frustrating to students who have signed up for your course if, every time one asked a question, you threw up your hands and said, What do I know? You need to offer something. You need to wrangle a set of guidelines from what feels to you like your own desperate, manic-depressive, slap shot approach to writing fiction, where minor successes have been more the result of persistence or luck than skill. You have a hard time imagining how the things you've experienced or discovered, which seem abjectly personal, could be of use to another writer. You're aware that you can follow every single rule in the book, and still write a crappy story. You're aware of the constant disappointments of writing, of falling short again and again, of seeing ideas shrivel up or simply die. You're aware of the elusiveness of art, and that the aspects of a story or novel that take it from being good to great are mostly mysterious, inexplicable, magical, utterly original, and unrepeatable.
     However, you're a fiction writing professor. This is a class. You need to provide a take-away. You say that fiction can be broken down into three main elements: plot, character, and language. Good.
     You say that we'll break the workshops down into these three areas. Good. You say that these are like the pistons that the engine of fiction runs on, or maybe the cylinders, and then you acknowledge that you have no sense of how an engine works and actually aren't sure how to open the hood of your car, so you shouldn't be using automotive metaphors. […]"
— Justin Kramon, Glimmer Train

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