Thursday, May 1, 2008

My view on perspective

Hey, look, everyone--a post about writing! OK, OK... settle down. I'm about to say something important.

It is my opinion that it's impossible to immediately gauge the worth of one's own writing. Which is just a guy-with-a-philosophy-degree's way of saying that you can't see something when you're standing too close to it.

The author stands over a defeated plot hole.

Just like a boxing match looks a lot different to the boxers than it does to the spectators, a story puts the writer square in the middle and forces him or her to lose objectivity. If you're not getting swept along in a story you're writing, you're doing something wrong... because your readers won't get swept along either--a big problem unless you're writing a technical manual. (although, let's face it, technical manuals could use more explosions, chases and intrigue, couldn't they?)

That's why a crucial part of the writing process for me is giving a semi-finished manuscript to people, or several people, to read. They can tell me what works and what doesn't, what is exciting and what isn't, who is believeable and who is cartoonish.

I don't act on every suggestion. But I listen to everything--yes, even the sarcasm--and the manuscript gets better. And more sarcastic. Everyone wins!


Ben Miraski said...

Yeah, so this is a way late comment, but something struck me as I was catching up on my podcasts the other day and this post hits along those lines.

Check out Linday getting arrested over at MobLogic.

This is the kind of get right in it writing that the world needs. It doesn't make sense to be as passive as things have been in the past.

Not that everything should go as far as column/blog-fever, where everything is an opinion. However, you do need to put some perspective in writing these days because we need to add substance to the writing to get someone to read it more than an hour after it happens (or didn't happen in the case of fiction.)

Of course, I could just be some blowhard journalism student who feels like his voice is being constrained by the masses.

Gerry said...

interesting point, ben. my post was about writing fiction.

but I do think some of those lessons apply to journalism as well: stories need to be compelling on a basic level, offering the readers a REASON to read... often by helping them idenitify somehow with the story. that's where perspective comes in.

on the other hand, I strongly believe that we as journalists need to try to remain as objective as possible, for the simple reason that opinion (right or wrong) undermines credibility. yes, rolling up your sleeves and really diving into a story, as lindsay did, is good. but telling readers that the protesters are right... well... I have a much harder time supporting that.