Looking for the Magic of the Story
March 2, 2013
“A page of Addison or of Irving will teach more of style than a whole manual of rules, whilst a story of Poe’s will impress upon the mind a more vivid notion of powerful and correct description and narration than will ten dry chapters of a bulky textbook.” – H.P Lovecraft
Who is H.P. Lovecraft? Call me curious, but I love reading and researching about authors of decades gone by, so when I came across this post about Lovecraft, I was instantly intrigued.
Lovecraft was a science fiction and fantasy author in the 1920’s. He gave a lot of insight about the craft of writing which I find holds true today, as well. Yes, publishing has changed. We are a society of instant gratification and so want our reads to be fast, as well. I guess I’m old school. Nothing satisfies me more than a well-crafted novel, one I can count on to occupy my reading time for weeks on end, where I can lose myself in the world the author creates. I want the book I choose to be my close friend, as the days go by, while I conspire to steal time for escape into that world.
It’s hard to find that kind of literature these days. So I look to the classics, or authors who still write in that way.
H.P. Lovecraft once said, “No aspiring author should content himself with a mere acquisition of technical rules. … All attempts at gaining literary polish must begin with judicious reading, and the learner must never cease to hold this phase uppermost. In many cases, the usage of good authors will be found a more effective guide than any amount of precept.”
In other words, you must read in order to learn to write.
Another author I find interesting is Harry Valentine Miller. He wrote the Tropic of Capricorn. He died in 1980.
One of his famous quotes: “If there is a magic in story writing, and I am convinced there is, no one has ever been able to reduce it to a recipe that can be passed from one person to another.”
That’s the way I feel a novel should be. Magic. Do we tie ourselves up so tightly with the rules that we forget to write the magic?
Okay, let’s look at another author, John Steinbeck. He wrote The Grapes of Wrath and East of Eden. Maybe you’ll remember Of Mice and Men. Here are a few tips he gave aspiring writers.
1. Abandon the idea that you are ever going to finish. Lose track of the 400 pages and write just one page for each day, it helps. Then when it gets finished, you are always surprised.
2. Write freely and as rapidly as possible and throw the whole thing on paper. Never correct or rewrite until the whole thing is down. Rewrite in process is usually found to be an excuse for not going on. It also interferes with flow and rhythm which can only come from a kind of unconscious association with the material.
3. Forget your generalized audience. In the first place, the nameless, faceless audience will scare you to death and in the second place, unlike the theater, it doesn’t exist. In writing, your audience is one single reader. I have found that sometimes it helps to pick out one person—a real person you know, or an imagined person and write to that one.
4. If a scene or a section gets the better of you and you still think you want it—bypass it and go on. When you have finished the whole you can come back to it and then you may find that the reason it gave trouble is because it didn’t belong there.
5. Beware of a scene that becomes too dear to you, dearer than the rest. It will usually be found that it is out of drawing.
6. If you are using dialogue—say it aloud as you write it. Only then will it have the sound of speech.
While I listen to the advice thrown at me from every direction on how to write, I still look to those who have gone before. The love of the craft, the need to inspire—the magic.
Patty Wiseman is author of An Unlikely Beginning. Please click the book cover to read more about the novel on Amazon. Patty can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Goodreads, LinkedIn, and www.pattywiseman.net