Part of the CBC Massey Lectures series, Northrop Frye originally delivered his series of six talks on the value of studying literature, collective known as The Educated Imagination, in 1962. The lectures have been collected in a book published by Anasi. By virtue of being a student at the University of Toronto and being taught by professors who were in turn taught by Frye himself, the ideas of this book are a part of my critical DNA. Before going back to read The Educated Imagination again this week after a decade of recommending it to all and sundry, I don’t think I fully appreciated exactly how formative Frye’s ideas are to me and my approach to literature and critical theory. Continue reading “READ 001 – The Educated Imagination – Northrop Frye”
In out most recent chat, Luke and I discussed how reading books or articles about storytelling is all well and good, but it would be more beneficial to us as creators, and indeed to our community as a whole, if we were to actually reflect on the content of these books.
To that end: enter a new kind of Central Pillar article. READ articles will allow members of the Adventures in Storytelling community to reflect on writing that is about writing. Much like the PLAY experiments, we don’t want to put too many formal restrictions on what READ looks like, but expect READ to be filled with insights on big thinkers, discussions on new ideas, connections to existing Adventures in Storytelling content (especially Right Pillar themes), thoughts on the many philosophies of storytelling, and indeed, whatever else you want READ to be about!
During the first ever Adventures in Storytelling Suds and Stories (a real life meetup where community members hang out to enjoy company, beverages, and talking about stories), Amanda described Stephen King as ‘supernaturally talented,’ which is both incredibly apt and an incredible pun. I can’t give you any proof, but I feel that King’s talent flows from an innate understanding of a simple storytelling truth (a truth that he puts on to the lips of Roland in The Dark Tower series): the joy of a tale is in the telling.
As we explored in Part I, a story is a space where the audience and the author meet and together generate meaning. Stories possess a wonderful quirk that complicates this idea, though. Once a story is told, it continues to exist independent of the person who originally did the telling. That might mean it was codified or recorded in some way, or it may just mean that it lives on in the memory of a person who was listening, but a story becomes an entity unto itself. Continue reading “The Joy of a Tale is in the Telling Part II: Magic Beans”
Here at Adventures in Storytelling, we live by a simple idea: how a story is told can be as interesting as the story itself. In more concrete terms, meta commentary on storytelling is itself a space for some really interesting revelation. If it wasn’t, I’m fairly certain the central pillar would collapse.
I do think there is a good reason why most works of literature don’t have a DVD extras-sytle commentary or an author’s website pulling apart the entire outline of a plot, though. Stories should be able to stand for themselves, and as I’ve said before, what an audience brings to a work is just as important as what the authors pour in. The space where author and audience meet is where meaning is generated. The existence of Adventures in Storytelling notwithstanding, giving the audience too much meta commentary can undercut that spontaneous generation of meaning. Our project is looking at the process of creation for other creators, and the dilution of emergent meaning is accepted in order to show how the work itself is created. Continue reading “The Joy of a Tale is in the Telling Part I: Meta Commentary and Shared Story Space”
I’m going to be honest with you. It’s a bit rich of me to be spewing wisdom like “‘show don’t tell’ is reductive and potentially crappy advice” and “ideation is a key to success” because I have absolutely no formal training in writing whatsoever. Everything I know about stories comes from the other side. I have a lot of training in critical thought, and I’d like to think I’m at least adequate at it.
As a result, I’ve made some assumptions about writing in the past. When I make those assumptions, Luke (who does have formal training as a professional writer) usually manages to say something that surprises me. Often it’s insightful wisdom or highly organized, process-based logic, but he did throw me for a loop once. When I went off on a tangent about whether a character would be able to see mountains from where they were standing in a comment on a section of Charlotte’s Journey, I learned that Luke was largely unfamiliar with verisimilitude. Certainly not the concept itself, but the word. I always sorta figured it was writing 101 stuff, but there you have it. Continue reading “Adventures in Terminology: Verisimilitude”
Last month, I wrote a section of Charlotte’s Journey that is told from the perspective of our villain, Count Vilnius. When we eventually assemble the jigsaw puzzle and put all these sections in order, “A Vile View of Vilnius” should be the second chapter dealing with our big bad, but in draft format this section was the first time Luke and I had privileged access to Vilnius’ thoughts. It was also the first time I had a chance to write the character at all.
The constant refrain when writing Charlotte’s Journey has been “do something simple very well.” The simple part is so that Luke and I are working in a frame we’re familiar with. The very well part is there so we challenge ourselves in that frame. Although I’ve encountered a number of difficulties writing Charlotte’s Journey, writing Vilnius was perhaps the most difficult so far. As it result, it may also have been the most rewarding. Continue reading “Writing Wrongs: Doing Right by your Villain”
Luke and I have been talking a lot about process lately, both here at Adventures in Storytelling and in our conversations with each other. Although the going is slow, both Adventures in Storytelling and Charlotte’s Journey are chugging along happily, so much of our conversation has dealt with maintaining our creative pace. The best strategy seems to be establishing and sticking to a routine. Once again, Luke and I have discovered something that is already well known! We’re accepting awards for redundancy. Continue reading “Facing the Challenge of a Disrupted Schedule”
“Writing is a dog’s life, but the only one worth living.”
— Gustave Flaubert
They descend upon the site, recalling last session’s twists and turns, some reenacting key moments, others content to smile like a conspirator before revealing their theories for tonight’s installment. They banter and question; probe and dissect. A tense excitement hangs in the air. Tonight promises to wrap up loose threads, and reveal the shadowy presence of the next arc. The group makes their way through the dark to the single glowing flame, barely more than a spark, that burns in the centre of the fire pit. Each has brought a log of wood, and the telling will only last as long as the wood burns—though its impact will linger on long into the night, the next day, and beyond.
As the group settles into the circle around the fire, the wood stacked within arms reach so as to not ruin the rhythm of the telling, the Storyteller appears silently from the darkness. There is no ruckus to proceed the Storyteller’s coming, no fanfare to follow. There is the fire; there is the circle. There is the Story. Continue reading “Why Does the Shaman Need the Fire?”
“I only write when inspiration strikes. Fortunately it strikes at nine every morning.” — William Faulkner
I haven’t finished a story in… years. Articles, sure. But a full-fledged short story—not since before the end of my undergrad. Even my final creative writing project was handed in as a less than final draft. I would sit down with the beginning of the story and a picture of several neat scenes in my head. I’d muddle through from the start, hoping I’d stumble my way into a setup that would allow those scenes to happen. In other words, I’d have a clear image of scene-Q, I’d formulate a quick, barebones outline to get started, write the first line… And lose my way on scene-D, long before I got anywhere near Q. I could see the parts, but when it came to writing the prose, I struggled to get myself to the finish.
In short: my writing process was not working for me. Continue reading “Planning My Way To Q: a 3-Stage Experiment in the Creative Process”
The process of reclaiming the title of storyteller was not entirely an easy one. Not only was I committing myself to a project with a fairly large scope, but I was also making myself accountable to another human being (who just so happens to be a very good friend). Combining that with the difficulty that comes with any artistic or creative process meant learning how to write all over again. Continue reading “No, You’re Analogue! A Writer’s Strategy”