Well all good things come to an end I suppose. Here I am at the end of On Writing and I've learned so much. The thing is, I never felt like I was in a classroom of the mind taking notes. Instead I learned about a man who learned to write from books, then wrote a book about it. Mr King has taught me telepathy, what to put in my toolbox, and finally archaeology.
Telepathy. It seemes like such a strange concept but it couldn't be simpler. Authors use books to practice telepathy en masse. They construct vivid worlds for us to see in our minds and characters we can imagine walking down the street on any given day. King for a large part of his life was the end of the telepathy link with books like Combat Casey and others teaching him about the mental link between writer and reader. It was this that pushed him to become a part of the creating aspect of telepathy, or the sending aspect, telepathically sending images to readers everywhere.
Next we come to the toolbox, every writer's trusty set of devices to unearth a story. Here we see the dislike of passive voice by King. Oh my God. I just made a literary joke. Folks, I'm sorry, it'll never happen again, I swear. Moving on from that abyssmal moment in my life, King stresses the importance of grammar and literature and yet makes a point to make sure that it is our own. Add this to the intracacies of character development, what with characters acting of their own accord and it gives the idea of books coming to life a whole new meaning. Reading books by authors like Bradbury and Faulkner were obviously influential to this line of thinking, by reading so many books and seeing so many different forms of syntax and grammar, not to mention so many different types of characters, King realized that there was no set way to write, just that writers wrote best when they wrote like themselves and not someone else. But at the same time, King admits to trying to write like Bradbury and others in his youth. I suppose to find your style, you have to try someone else's and see how it fits. Food for thought.
And the final lesson King and On Writing teaches us is... not one I expected to learn. Ever. The lesson of archaeology. See the story is there and it's our job to dig it up, making sure it's as whole and undamaged as possible. That's what our toolbox is for you see? And the development of the characters, the description of the setting, simile, alliteration, metaphor, all these thing contribute to what exactly your fossil looks like when you're done. So Shakespeare, Thoreau, Whitman, Dickinson, and Austen weren't just great writers, They were crack archaeologistsas well. And reading all of these authors set King on the path to becoming a writ- ahem excuse me, an archaeologist himself.
So let's put this whole confusing, flummoxing, and just plain weird thing in perspective. Coming up with an idea for a book is finding a fossil that's been there waiting for someone to discover it. Writing the book is the writer using the tools in their toolbox to bring out the story (taking care not to damage it). And then by reading this book, the author telepathically sends the image of the fossil the found to us. All clear? If you say yes, then you've got a better handle on this writing thing than I do but hey, you might be the next Stephen King.
Tuesday, January 25, 2011
It's not hard to find someone willing to tell you what's wrong with this country. It seems to be the only good thing that has come out of our recent adversity is the peoples renewed interest in the actions of the government, like a TV show they lost track of for a few seasons and are trying to get current on again. And tonight President Obama in his State of the Union speech provided an excellent summary of the nation thus far, as well as some of the highlights of where this show is headed. One thing I wasn't expecting was the particular section of the speech on innovation. We are a country of innovators without a doubt, and the apparent focus on new ideas and inventions was... unanticipated but not unwelcome. High speed rail? Clean energy research? Alright, not bad ideas. Next up is education. Now we're somewhat back on familiar ground, our education system could certainly use some work. Preparing 100,000 teachers in the fields of math, science, and engineering is a great start. Permanent tuition tax credit? Good news to soon-to-be college students like myself. I'm not sure what to think on the foreign students deal though, that deserves a reservation of judgement. And we move on to infrastructure. A great point if you're from Louisiana (the state that road maintenance forgot). I've already stated the high speed rail project, but high speed Internet and highway repair round out this point. Okaayy. Next President Obama discussed business. Namely the lowering of the corporate tax rate and the cultivating of the import export business with India and China. Well we do kind of owe China... Then healthcare came up. I'm sure we were all expecting this. I have to say I agree on this aspect. It's easier to change than to start from scratch. There are good and bad parts about Obamacare, and at this stage reform is the better option in my opinion. And we come to debt. This is what we've all been waiting for. As for the cuts in spending, where will they come from? Who will be affected? Reorganizing government? Not a bad idea, but how without domestic spending? Okay, defense. We've done well overseas, what with START and the Middle East and all our usual issues. Briging our troops home by July was a nice way to round out the point as well. And we end with a reminder of the American Dream and how it's made itself evident today. All together a great speech in terms of uniting the country. But the one thing this speech lacks is what was lacking in President Obama's 2008 campaign. The mention of how. If you stuck with the speech all the way through, you'll realize that was a hell of a list to get through in two years. So how are we going to do this? It's great to say we're America and we kick tail and take names but at this point a battle plan would be nice. We have two years before we enter another election and apparently in those two years America is supposed to undergo massive change that makes things better. We shall see.
Wednesday, January 19, 2011
Well here we are again it seems. When I last posted about On Writing, I ended with the line let's get down to business in an attempt to sound cool and mysterious. Well I liked it so much that I decided to make it the theme of all my On Writing posts. But more than that, the theme of business fits with this story (or so I feel, feel free to disagree, I'd actually enjoy it) because the further I read, the more I understand exactly what business King is trying to explain. Archaeology. His take on writing stories being like unearthing fossils is on the same level of freaking-coolness as the whole books = telepathy bit in the What Writing Is section. As for vocab and grammar being on the top shelf of our toolbox, let's just say I was one of those kids in 10th grade English who understood grammar (any Shoemakers out there?). But I think what I like most about this section is the character development/description usage part. Here is where King takes two very difficult processes and simplifies them. And as characters are coming to life and doing things of their own accord and our minds are lazily stretching out into areas of thought previously unexplored, King maintains that although you should try to please some readers, Don't be afraid to... screw around basically. Go nuts, do whatever the hell you want, then sit back and look at what you've made and look for underlying patterns and revise as needed. This is the business that King has mired himself in and is explaining. And it would seem that business is booming.
Monday, January 17, 2011
Before I start, let me say I don't usually read non fiction. Ever. That's because most of the non-fiction I've tried to read is boring, dull, blank, and just plain not fun. I'd much rather stay in my fantasy world and batttle with knights, wizards, dragons, heck maybe even supercomputers bent on world domination or somesuch. And I've been like that for the majority of my life. So when I opened On Writing it was with the notion that I was going to have another excursion into that drab real world I so despise. Then I read the first three forewords. And I realized something in those few pages that made me set this book apart from other non-fiction books I'd tried to read in the past. This Stephen King guy is funny! So with my curiosity piqued, I read further into the C.V. Past some hilarious stories involving poison ivy, newspapers, and high school (the eternal joke as far as I'm concerned) the humor continues. I was amazed quite frankly, this guy makes fun of others, he makes fun of himself, he tells the good times and the bad, he uses foul language yet creates some very sentimental moments and still manages to be as candid as possible. And then I reached the end of the C.V. , much to my dismay and just as I thought the book couldn't have anymore of an effect, it did. Stephen King takes writing and transforms it from a lengthy activity to a mental construction unrivaled in its' complexity. And let's face it, that bit about books being a form of telepathy is just freaking cool. And finally Mr. King lays down a challenge, not to come to the blank page lightly, that we can do business. Well Mr. King, you have my attention. Let's get down to business.