March 23rd, 2007

Adrasteius: Really?  Really.

on writing

::shakes fist:: I've been scouring my own archives trying to locate critical comments for an old story I wrote, and I finally realized I never posted it to the general interwebs. Bother. I really think the stories I wrote in Boswell's fiction class and then some of the later work in Schottenfeld's class are some of the best short ideas I've had and are worth working on. The work I did for my first fiction class at Rhodes was almost unilaterally awful, and most of my very late work at Rhodes was also awful--the former because the professor put too many restrictions on us in an effort to eschew 'genre' (as always, as always), the latter because I was depressed and not eating and wanting to die etc.

The story I'm looking for is about a young man whose friend dies at the beginning of the story, his friend being an ascetic vagrant known as a 'saint' in their small town because of his devotion to simple living and contemplating the word of God. When he dies, the young man tries to 'prove' his friend's saintliness to his other friend, an acerbic girl who thinks he's full of it. One proof of saintliness is a body that not only doesn't decay, but also smells fragrantly, as of flowers. But the boy is ultimately, as it stands, too afraid to open the casket to check. I kinda liked the idea and wanted to fix it up, but I really wish I could find even the prof's criticisms ... nuts.

Anyway, soo, problems. I wrote this other story, right, and posted it as usual, and the responses I got for the first go-round were fairly favorable from the LJ-set--the set I consider my 'true' audience, in that the kind of people I have friended are generally people who share my interests and tastes regarding what makes a story worthwhile--but was absolutely destroyed, I mean DESTROYED, by my workshop. While I didn't and don't consider the majority of my workshopmates to be the audience I'm truly interested in writing for, the fact remains that in order to complete this program my professor HAS to sign off on my work.

That being said, I revise the story more according to this professor's standards. The responses I get from LJ-land are less than favorable, to the point that I'm shaking nervous on the workshop day for this story (which was on Monday). But, my class loved it, and more importantly, my prof loved it.

This presents a problematic situation. On the one hand, as I've just written, it's not wrong to assert that I wrote this story 'for the workshop,' that is to say, I had their opinions directly in mind when revising it from the original. I kept with the portions the professor praised, cut the rest, and developed the central idea in a different way. But the central idea I wanted to express in both versions--that of the self-loathing brought on by adolescence as expressed by a young girl obsessed with issues of the body, cleanliness, and order--was the same. So what makes either version interesting to anyone?

To me, both versions are flawed. I would like a seamless fusion of the two, because I think the revision burrows deeper into the narrator's head and heart than the original, but the original also has more palpable conflict to sustain interest. If/when I revise it again, though, I probably won't return it to its original genre--what I would do would just amplify what's already in the revision, although whether that would sustain/catch the interest of the LJ audience is questionable. But I feel it's the proper direction for the story, so that's that.

Still, the problem remains: can I write stories that appeal to an audience interested primarily in 'literary' tropes as well as audience interested in primarily 'non-literary' tropes? Am I limited in my powers to only emulate what's expected of me? Or can I achieve that fusion, and write stories which appeal to both 'demographics' of people?

What I really want to write, that is, the type of story that makes me happiest to write, are crazy fantasy-oriented dramedies along the lines of every long-form work I've ever done/am doing (ie Claris, Clarity, KS, eulstory, so on). These ARE the kinds of stories I love writing. But I do find something valuable in trying to write outside of that, trying to write shorter stories about different issues and people, even if I may not have the talent/ability to carry them off with any sort of panache.

I've been doubting my ability to write a lot lately, because while I'm supposed to be bettering my writing through each successive work, I kind of feel like I'm becoming WORSE in that the last two efforts I've put out (the story referenced above and another story I wrote last semester) have been met with general disdain/cautious lukewarm half-smiles. It may be a case of trying to please everybody and so therefore pleasing nobody ... or it may be me straining against my own grievous limitations.
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