Saturday, May 25, 2013

Like Exercise - Challenging AND Rewarding

From Where You Dream: The Process of Writing FictionFrom Where You Dream: The Process of Writing Fiction by Robert Olen Butler
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Butler offers some fascinating advice and a unique - and very demanding - perspective on composition, specifically fiction writing but with application to all forms of communication. His challenge to a would-be author is not only to "get out of your head," but almost "get out of language." Sounds impossible, but what he really wants us to give up is the constant urge to summarize what happens and then characterize the meaning of the events. We are often told "Show, don't tell," and he expands the charge to include having the reader smell, touch, experience the physical "raw data" along with our character, allowing them to create meaning as a result of their reading. This is much harder than it sounds, and some of his exercises (this book implements his advice by putting us in the classroom with his students) illustrate this difficulty. I had to renew this book several times, because I could only digest small bites at any given time, but every time I dipped in for more I closed the book more satisfied. Compared to this some of the "You can write - it's easy!" offerings seem so shallow unhelpful.

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