Sunday, February 20, 2011

Machiavellian Bastards

Yesterday I attended my second writing workshop by John Harman.  You may remember my conclusion from his previous workshop, which was that writers are both mad people and thieves.

Well, now I have extended that to included the proposition that writers are also promiscuous Machiavellian bastards who can defy the laws of physics.  Cool hey.

He told us:

Figure out the worst thing possible you can do to your hero, and do it.
Show them you are a bastard as an author.  You're meant to be.  You are God.
You have become Machiavellian.

John was explaining the concept of chiasmus, the Greek word for cross, where the story reverses on itself.  Such as 'what matters is not the men in my life, but the life in my men' or 'You do not live to eat, you eat to live'. He told us that we must constantly be looking for ways to reverse the story and, if possible, torture our protagonist by putting them in situations that would put them under complete and utter duress. 

His complaint about first time writers was that we are all too nice to our heros, and very rarely want to hurt them.  Imagine how lame 'Romeo and Juliet' would have been had Shakespeare decided to let them live happily ever after.  Why is this story one of the greatest of all time?  Chiasmus.  The story starts with our protagonists alive but apart, and finishes with them dead but together.  Neat.

Then we were told:

Writers are promiscuous.  We are writing one story but we keep thinking about another.

Finally he concluded:

Writers are not subject to the laws of gravity.  If you are an architect you must start with the foundations or your building will fall down.  A writer can start anywhere: the middle, beginning or end.

I think the key though, is that writers need to actually start.  I do, anyway. This is my typical modus operandi, after all I am a researcher by training.  I like to gather a lot of information and do a lot of background work (in this case a bookcase full of writing courses) that fill my time and make me look very busy, but I still haven't actually done anything.

In August when we have our next National Census I plan on putting the word 'writer' in the box where it asks me my occupation.  I would like to be able to justify that claim by at least having written and submitted one article. 

And if it is accepted, even better.  Six months, one article. How hard can it be?

1 comment:

  1. I think planning to put "writer" on the Census is a very cool goal. And I'm also certain that you'll achieve it!


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