Day 67

It used to be "easier" to invent stuff in the past. All you needed was to figure out what people needed or what would make their lives easier. Flushing toilets? A health syrup with some cocaine in it? Light bulbs? You automated something and you became filthy rich with your patents and licensing and what not.

Nowadays, it seems like people have everything they need. They just want something better. CDs have the best sound you can possibly get, but people want MP3s for portability, so the race now is to make lossless audio compression for portable media devices. A regular crapper is not good enough -- we now need ones that would clean your tush after you're done. Alarm clocks? We want one that will play your favorite songs in a new arrangements depending on your mood and what you have planned for the day...

I guess progress has always been that way. I'm sure when Mr. Crapper invented the crapper, people were kind of content with doing their business in a hole and burying it with straws. Before toilet paper, corn cobs worked just fine.

The truth is, we don't need what we don't know. The job of an inventor isn't only giving us what we want, but what we don't even know we want. They have to come up with new "needs."

In a way, that's what creativity is. What's the point of reinventing the wheels when people have seen it a million times before? Then you're just mass producing, like with toilet paper. But a great writer, I think, would create and invent something new out of the ordinary, even before everyone else realizes they want it.

To Kill a Mockingbird tackled racism from the point of view of a white southern girl. Lolita spoke of the unspeakable. The Da Vinci Code made us question the validity of religions. Jurassic Park posed the intriguing question of "what if we could re-create the past"? The Time Traveler's Wife made us realize love is, indeed, timeless.

Some writers tells me they never have a theme in mind when they write -- they just want to tell a good story with interesting characters. And that's certain fun and entertaining. Still, I would contend that great literature makes us think of the unthinkable, or provoke new thoughts and ideas, or believe in the unbelievable. I think that's the beauty of literature -- it can reflect on what we already know (about the human nature), or take us to out-of-this-world places with outrageous concepts that broaden our minds.

Is it egotistical to believe one can change the world with his or her words? Is it self-importance? I don't know, but I tend to think that my job as a writer is to entertain, enthrall, and enlighten. The first two, I believe, are inherent in a "good story" but the third element is what makes fiction really great, and I aspire to do just that. If that makes me an egotist, so be it.


Right now I'm writing a few scenes and my instinct is to get to the point and move the plot along quickly -- I guess I'm getting a bit impatient, trying to finish the book. :) That's what a page-turner is, right?

Then I got to think: slow down. It's not a race. Not every scene has to hit the mark plot-wise and reveal everything at the same time.

I was watching the TV shows Heroes and Flashforward and I realized how they revealed the plot slowly. Some scenes don't even make sense at first until later when the audience finally realizes what is going on, but it makes for a richer experience, and the intrigue/mystery/suspense (of not revealing everything at once) makes me want to keep watching and see where it's going.

So, how do you resist the urge to plow through the plot? How do you slow down but not too much to "drag"? Do you just write it, and then figure out how to slow things down/spread it out/expand it later in rewrites?

200 words, 25800 words total
298 days and 159700 words to go


Carpe Diem said…
Holy Virgin Mary, Ray! You posed so many interesting questions today!

--"The truth is, we don't need what we don't know. The job of an inventor isn't only giving us what we want, but what we don't even know we want. They have to come up with new 'needs.'" Yeah. I kinda call that "capitalism". ;9

--Kudos for mentioning The Time Traveler's Wife when talking about creativity. That novel did open my eyes to some ideas I had not considered before.

--You mentioned "The Writer's Three E's". I believe as well that an effective story must entertain and enthrall. Regarding the enlightening, it came to my mind what one of my teachers (possibly the best I've had) told us once: Every story, every book, every written text, has an underlying message. When asked, she managed to prove even Captain Underpants had one ("Be responsible for your actions"). I suppose, then, that the difference between a subpar and a superb writer lies in how well they can bring out their story's message to the reader (without being preachy).

--As I've stated many times before, I'm no expert when it comes to writing. But yes, I myself would say trial and error would be the best way to go here, although you might want to wait for someone else to give you their opinion on that.

BTW, I don't know if you did that on purpose, but you missed your word count on the end of the post. :)

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