nancylebov (nancylebov) wrote,

On writing and monsters

Everything is interesting when it happens to real people; picking a flower or anything. (What kind of flower? Why is that monster holding a battered daisy? Why isn't it a single perfect rose? But there it is, it's a daisy. Or it used to be a single perfect rose, but it's been clutched in his big paw for hours because the bus broke down and he had to walk and now it's sort of a Single Droopy Rose, and it's not red either, for some reason it's yellow.) The plastic monster has a single perfect velvety red red rose, gracefully deployed in his elegant hand, and it was always there, he came with it; the real monster has a flower clutched in his sweaty paw, and he got it from somewhere. Someone's garden, or the corner store, and he picked that particular flower at that particular moment for a particular reason, and that's interesting, it means something.)

Nothing is very interesting when it happens to plastic monsters. This is why we used to spend hours torturing our Barbies, inventing increasingly more hideous fates until they broke, and then complain that we were bored and go off and be pirates, which involved, really, not much happening, but we were BEING PIRATES, and therefore not bored at all.

I suspect that plastic monsters in that sense are the ones that never get popular and don't get remembered. If torturing Barbies wasn't interesting, kids wouldn't do it for hours--and there are plenty of kids who set up adventures for their Barbies, too. The real plastic monster is the doll that isn't interesting enough to play with.

And besides, in order to write from the monsters, you have to get to know the monsters. And not in a therapy way, because these are not, exactly, the therapy monsters; the point of therapy is to exorcise the monsters. The point of writing is to exercise the monsters, to bring them out and let them play without them taking over and wrecking the place, and to get away with that you have to make friends with them. Then you have to betray their trust by bending them ruthlessly to your will, until nobody but you and your editor can exactly quite say what they actually look and behave like in the wild. You must tame them, and then teach them to play wild, dancing to music of your choosing and all the time looking as if they might break loose and eat someone. They hate this, understandably, but you must do it, if you want to write. (You write for fun, you say? You're crazier than I am, then, and that's going some.)

This overlaps Delany's distinction between good writing and talented writing--good writing has nothing wrong with it, while talented writing is interesting. (From the introduction to his _On Writing_, published in The New York Review of Science Fiction.

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