It's been a while, so I thought, 'anything, Sandra'.
I've been reading so many academic things that writing fiction is not given half as much time as I had intended when I started my undergraduate studies. But here's the kick. I've come to the conclusion that all that research, all the getting my head around philosophy and lit theory - when I look back at my past work in the creative writing arena - opens so many more doors for a work to have, yes, reader appeal (by knowing my way around the craft better), but also substance. Maybe it's an age thing, but I hope not. I think part of the big joy for me with books is that it can have it all and if it doesn't then why the hell not?
Intention is a big question for any writer. Why screw about with crazy punctuation, why make characters do ridiculous things we wouldn't? Why take liberties with characters and make them suffer or happy if not for some reason more than just a narrative arc? Make those arcs work by giving them a backbone and a purpose for existence - that's my thoughts anyway. I think this is the difference between the possibility of earning with one publication, or building a reputation and if I am momentarily practical, a great tool for promoting the quality of future work. There. Part way to plugging a second work because the first had so much going for it.
Ethics and responsibility are one thing, but ethics as a creative notion, to intend for something to be written a certain way, at least arms your self-confidence.
I have just finished reading Katherine Dunn's 'Geek Love', about an American freak show family and the crazy ends to which the characters go through pains to be those unique individuals struggling for an existence in a world where the 'norms' worship their differences. I can well imagine that some of the events - and they are gruesome, but darkly beautiful - will turn some readers away, but intention is what it's all about. Narrative devices. Perfecting the critique of a social system and values made traditional but through acts which would challenge this ideal.
I don't know about anyone else, but the idea of writing something, now seeing with different eyes all that a work of fiction can be, and be specifically, if given intention, floats my boat bigtime. Can it hurt to look at how society works in social structures, viewpoints, or moral codes.. the list goes on.
Arming myself with at least some intention allows me to not only support my plot and more in the editing process (helping me to keep an eye on what is really necessary) but it also helps to troubleshoot weak characters, events, my use of language in and outside of dialogue.
If I choose some words over others, If I refer to specific themes in my work am I all about the reader and worrying if they will get it? Am I all about me and my exclusive peers - in which case financial success in publication is irrelevant? Or do I want to do it all. If I am in mixed company I have to tone down my Scots and this is because I WANT to have dialogue, I want to communicate and be a part of something.
Getting back to writing, if I take the time to consider - do I really want to use colloquialisms in the greater narrative or do I give it to my characters? Or if not that, then maybe give my character the narrative and let them face the critique.
I have to say I love fiction narrated by characters because even if it is not my own dialect it gives me a real flavour of the source of the story. For Geek Love, that American apple-pie family, the universal taint of celebrity, the image of popcorn and candyfloss flavoured by formaldehyde suspensions just gets me. And it all informs my own work. There is no new story - not in essence - but with intention, we can make a damn good argument for why ours is different, and not make the error of slipping into pure imitation.
I was working on one novel, now I have three on the go, so it's just as well I love research. Intention will hopefully help me to keep my ideas focused, and not allow my storylines to spill over into each other. Schizophrenia must be kept in check and I know that with writing at least it's there in me! There's a sinking suspicion in me that this post sounds like a speech... if it does, trust me it's meant to be directed internally.