Thursday, May 17, 2012

Instruction Manuals


Conventional and unconventional wisdom:

1. Excessive use of the verb to be—I am, you are, he, she, or it is—spirals us to the passive voice, which is not such a terrible thing, provided you’re content to transfer authority to the object rather than the subject.

We write—you emphatic in your wish to be numbered among the we—in order to present characters who take their own lives and the lives of others into their hands, to venture, question, probe, and otherwise investigate as opposed to allowing ourselves to be acted upon.

I act.  You act.  He, she, or it acts, and well the system should work that way.  I identify with, you identify with, he, she, or it identifies with some individual who is captured in the act of setting forth to discover as opposed to, ugh, having to settle for characters who have demonstrated as a singular trait the ability and continuing wish to sit about, waiting for a greater inertia to come along, then tumble then into activity.

2.  Readers care; they really do.  I mean, look; I read and I care.  The elephant here is the fact that reading and caring have made you aware of the possibilities to the point where the only places where you have to read are places where the text is of such a compelling nature that you have to read what you have to read.

You can find a sufficient quantity of available things to read, yet of this mass, a relative small number cries out to you in ways that engage you to the point where you have to read.  There is in fact so much to read that you are able without the slightest degree of defensiveness to set down something that has turned sour on you without the obligation to see it all the way through.

Some critics and teachers try to get around the guilt trip by reminding us that there are essential flaws everywhere; the great many unreadable flawed materials have more overt flaws, and hey, no one is perfect, except that some writers appear to be perfect, handing their work the sense of inevitable perfection as opposed to inevitable perfection.  This is frequently referred to as the God’s Hand School of writing.

3.  Even if you draw characters from real life, it becomes somehow confrontational for you to admit doing so, thus placing you down on the scale of achievement in matters literary.  Fact is, even though you believe you are constructing from whole cloth, you in all probability are drawing the individual from family, school, or close friends, a fact borne home to you as you realize you’ve not only lost certain characters, you never had them in the first place, and your lack may be traced back to the Famous Writers’ School.

6.  In spite of the conventions to the contrary, you may find it appropriate to start a story with several tons of backstory, most of which requires definition and explanation.  What you will discover is that the individuals who persist in telling you this have, themselves, published less than substantial numbers of story.

7.  One of the best ways of splitting an infinitive is with an adverb.

8.  It is all right for you to write about things you do not know.

9.  With so many things being published, no one will notice if you don’t read much.  Bullshit.  They’ll notice.

10.  It may be all right to write about things you do not know, but it is less dangerous to write about things you do know.  Depends on whether you want to write short stories and novels or instruction manuals.  Your choice.  One thing for sure, no one will ever try to steal your idea for an instruction manual.


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