Thursday, August 8, 2013

David Brin: Storytelling as Magic

I have been working hard lately to treat my writing more seriously, to make it a part of me more than something separate, to make it meaningful. If you've read my previous posts you'll have noticed my fixation on creativity and its inherent value. I want to affect a large audience someday, but I'm also happy simply practicing for the sake of practicing. I'm happy splashing around in the surf of creativity.

The ancient man who could take hold of and expand the minds of the tribe was a particularly valuable member of the group. When cultures believe that a man pointing a stick can cause harm, people die. And so, the genes that enable storytellers to survive have been passed down, and they survive today. The reader, the skilled technician, the receiver of magic, decrypts squiggles into marvels inside the mind. David Brin implies in this video that the creator -- the magician -- has a duty to hone his craft to the point where he can touch the imaginations of as many readers as possible. It's a matter of evolutionary progress. In order to do this, he will need guidance, advice and criticism.

Our relationship with the reader is sadomasochistic, and we're supposed to be the sadist. We want people saying they almost got into big trouble because they were reading our book when they should have been sleeping, studying, working, or even making love. When I heard David say this, it was the first time I had heard a writer come from this perspective, but it made sense. All of the best books put us through the wringer, cause us agony, yet we thank the author for it in the end.

So the magic we are striving for manifests as a trance in the audience. We want the reader to be so engrossed that they'll scream in rage when they find out "who done it".

And here's the big question: How can we cause this kind of pain and agony in our readers, the kind of suffering that they come running back to when the next book is released, the kind of urge that only a writer's magic can conjure up?

The answer is simple: get feedback from others.

Find out where they were able to put the book down to feed the cat or to get some sleep. Where was it tolerable to leave our magic. Where did our sentences lull enough for them to cast our narratives out of their minds and return to reality? Criticism is the only known antidote to error. It is the only way to find out the answers to these questions. If we don't, then the path forward will be a hundred time as hard.

david brin on the magic of writingGood ways to get feedback:

1) Start a workshop with other writers in your community.

2) Join a creative writing class at a community college (which will at the very least provide you with a weekly deadline and practice critiquing and being critiqued)

3) Write online. Publish short stories and fan fiction for free. Join a forum. Urge people to point out your weaknesses and thank them for it.

As for me, I put my writing on this site for anyone to enjoy. I have also been offering free promos of my stories listed on Amazon and encourage those who download them to email me their critiques after they finish reading. Also, I visit r/writing from time to time on Reddit, as well as participate on the forum These are just a few methods that work for me. What works for you?

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1 comment:

  1. Do other people agree with David Brin? How do you seek out criticism without getting too frustrated or losing confidence?


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