Wednesday, March 2, 2011
Forbidden things you can do anyway
Of course my friend is right: there are things that are almost impossible to do well, and other things that a beginner can wrap his head around more easily, and learn to do skillfully, in the three-and-a-half-month confines of an academic semester. But wow, it's hard to know how to tell them what's right and what's wrong. "Some writers have been able to use this technique effectively," you can say, "but it isn't working in your story." Or, "Traditionally, dialogue is formatted this way. You can format it another way, but you need to know the convention, and understand the consequences of breaking it."
If you ever wonder why creative writing classes often seem to be graded rather generously, this is the reason. Everything is a gray area. Nothing can be judged out of context. There are no things you can't do, and there are no things that always work. There are only...things. An infinite number. And they can be arranged in an infinite number of ways. It's enough to make me think my job might actually be...difficult.
Well--let's go with "complicated."