Metroblog

A one-time school project gone terribly, terribly wrong.

26 July 2007

Interview Question Two

2. When did you realise that you had a talent for writing and what is it about writing that fascinates you?

I've always been a wordman--"better than a birdman," to quote the Lizard King. Ever since childhood I've been fascinated by words and the power they have. I wrote fiction and poetry through high school, and then abandoned it after my not-graduation. After all, who was going to pay me money to write? The army was a better idea ... so it seemed.

Fast-forward about fourteen years. After leaving the army, trucking, and failing engineering, I was signing out of the school. This called for a visit to my Technical Writing prof.

"You're leaving?" she asked sadly.
I affirmed that this was so.
"That's a shame," she said, "You were one of the best students I've had in ages."

The light didn't dawn right away. I signed out and left. But I mentioned her remark to Mum, who didn't quite slap me upside the head:
"Then be a writer!" she said through teeth I think she had been gritting for about a decade and a half.

Not certain of myself, and not without a little maternal prodding, I went to visit my prof again. After some discussion, she suggested a program at a college on the mainland. It was while attending that program that I met the woman who would eventually be sufficiently foolish to put up with me for the term of one of our natural lives.

My fascination with writing begins with nuance. How the same set of words or phrases, arranged differently, convey such different meanings--or the same one. My favourite English phrase is possibly "Homeward the ploughman wends his weary way," because you can rearrange it in a surprising number of ways:

Homeward the ploughman wends his weary way.
The ploughman wends homeward his weary way.
Wends the ploughman his weary homeward way.
The ploughman homeward wends his weary way.
The ploughman his weary way homeward wends.
His weary way wends the ploughman homeward.
His weary homeward way wends the ploughman.

And so on.

I enjoy and admire a great storyteller. A truly great story can transcend language. The simplicity of Stephen King makes his tales that much more gut-wrenching. Hardly a three-syllable word to be found in 'em.

On the other hand, the fancy, storied, multi-adverbéd tales of Kipling and Haggard are the bread and the meat, the warp and the woof, indeed the very pretzels and beer which have heretorfore propelled me through this mysterious gathering of linked threads that form the great glowing tapestry of creation.

A lousy story, written prettily enough, may also transcend its shortcomings, if only for a short time. Otherwise a hell of a lot of stuff would never get published. Except possibly on blogs.

9 Comments:

At 6:47 a.m., Anonymous archie said...

I could never be a writer - for me, the words just fall out onto the page. I cannot handle rewriting. Unless it is to tighten up a limerick.

 
At 7:39 a.m., Anonymous azahar said...

All hail Metro the Wordster! And that wonderful woman foolish enough to put up with you ... and encourage you I'm sure.

I do enjoy the way you write, based on the recent short story here and also your posts.

You mentioned Stephen King. Have you read his book On Writing? I thought it was a very good 'how to' book about writing - very to the point and no nonsense. Even though I'm not a real fan of his novels - I've enjoyed a couple of them - I found his book about writing very interesting indeed.

I agree that the gift of storytelling can surpass writing ability - just look at JK Rowling. You gotta admit she can tell a good story (even if a lot of it is, ahem, borrowed from elsewhere).

Then there are artistic linguists like Nabokov who turn prose into poetry, even though the story itself might be something very unpleasant to read.

Then there is Pratchett, who can almost do now wrong as far as I'm concerned, with regards to wonderful storytelling and fabulous writing that comes across as almost effortless - at least his genuine love of writing fills every page.

Really, there ain't no rules.

Except ... apparently you can learn a lot more about writing by reading awful crap than by reading literary masterpieces. Go figure.

I once wrote a novel - about ten years ago. It was a wonderful experience, even though the result was totally dire. But hey! Gave me an excuse to drink lots of wine and smoke tons of cigarettes for about six months.

Keep up the good work! Looking forward to the next story.

 
At 12:57 p.m., Blogger Barbara K. Adamski said...

Heck, I though the ploughman's name was Homeward:

Homeward, the ploughman, wends his weary way.

:-)

 
At 2:39 p.m., Blogger Metro said...

@Archie:
I love rewriting, particularly the moment when you've just rewritten something slightly clumsy and it suddenly coalesces on the page into a javelin of meaning.

@Azahar:
All hail the Avid Fan, says I. And Mme is one of them, I think.

I have not yet read "On Writing". It's always next on my list. I plan to buy the hardcover and list it as a professional expense :-)

Rowling never did anything Enid Blyton didn't do--only she did it with a wand (as the Bishop said to the Actress).

I'm not sure Lolita was an unpleasant story. From Humbert Humbert's perspective it's supposed to be romantic, no? Mind you I have myself read only excerpts.

Pratchett gets absolutely miraculous mileage out of the same set of jokes, yet often manages to keep them fresh and light. The exception, I think, is "Night Watch." He'd clearly just watched "Les Miserables" when he wrote it.

I have written two 3-Day Novel Contest novels, both potential fodder for stronger work.

Last year my "you-didn't-win" slip was accompanied by a hand-written note saying that it had gotten "quite far", and a Special Award for Length.

This year I shall attempt less matter with more art.

@Barb:
Are those some of those missing commas we were discussing?

 
At 7:22 p.m., Blogger Barbara K. Adamski said...

Metro, I always keep a few spare commas in my back pocket. You just never know when extra clarity will be required.

 
At 4:51 p.m., Blogger Lori said...

Can everyone out there help me push this big lug's procratinating ass toward the actual submitting of some of said writing?

He's stuck in a not-quite-ready rut, and I don't know how to budge him.

 
At 6:31 a.m., Anonymous azahar said...

Metro, you've got to test the waters at some point. And the worst thing that could happen probably won't.

I reckon the first time is always the hardest ... just go for it.

What's the point of writing such great stuff if you don't give others a chance to read it?

I quite look forward to saying 'I knew him when ...' and asking for free copies of your published works and you saying 'What? I've never met that crazy woman in my entire life!'

 
At 2:51 p.m., Blogger Metro said...

Mme neglects to mention my proudest literary moments:

I won a special award for length from either the 3-Day Novel Contest or the Sin City event ... can't recall which.

I have a rejection slip from Geist.

And I have awarded myself the 'Lustr'ous Potentate's Special Prize for Irrelevancy.

 
At 5:42 a.m., Anonymous azahar said...

Having read your answer to question 3 things make a lot more sense now.

Keep trying though!

 

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