Archives for posts with tag: critics

I’ve come hard up against a writerly situation that I can’t quite figure out. This comes from the part of my life that’s as a published author, not the write, submit, rinse, repeat part. When one of my stories was published by a prominent magazine, reactions by reviewers and regular (as opposed to irregular?) readers were split right down the middle. The first review I read was negative, and to me seemed mean spirited. It basically accused the story of using dialogue to info dump, annoy, and offend the delicate sensibilities of discerning consumers of fine science fiction. The half that were positive reactions mean the world to me, as they were lovely and insightful. If only human nature would always skew toward the positive. Instead, while I treasure the wonderful reactions, the negative ones nag at the back of my mind.

The major nag is an almost subconscious stream of consciousness pondering of the process of short story writing and aftermath–ing. The way I see it, there are two ways to project story from the writer’s mind to the readers’. One is exposition. I’m of the less is more school on this one. The idea of subtlety allowing…forcing…a collaboration between the imaginations of writer and reader is so appealing to me. I’ve always loved that experience as a reader, though I enjoy the more wordy authors too. One of my favorites, Virginia Woolf, wrote prose of great beauty, using her particular kind of magic to still leave room for reader imagination participation in among gorgeous foot long sentences. But we can’t all be Virginia Woolf. In fact, none of us can. Which is as it should be. We can only be ourselves. Write our best. Leave the rest to collective imagination. And hope for the moments when one instance of meeting of the minds or a collective experience reaches near zeitgeist status…in a good way.

The other way of expelling story from one brain to another is through dialogue. I’m big on that one. Some readers love it, others apparently really don’t. The beauty of dialogue…is the opportunity to create beautiful dialogue. I’m far from claiming that my characters’ conversations are always like jewels dripping from their papery tongues. Or often. But sometimes…sometimes…. The things characters say to each other can do so much more than move story along. They tell their own stories of personality, hardship, joy, courage, and honor. You can either have characters express themselves as only they can or sometimes clumsily try to force your vision of their lives into a reader’s head. The reader may resist. The character may as well. Then nobody is happy, fictional or flesh and blood.

So I’ve come to the conclusion that I need to just carry on, writing what I want and how I want, and trust that the readers who get it will enjoy what they’ve read so much that they think about it long after the last word has drifted across the bridge from my mind to theirs. The ones who don’t get it aren’t going to suddenly stop looking for things to dislike. They’ll be the way they are whether I try to change my weird, wonderful way of writing by instinct or write the way I love and keep loving it. So I’m who I am, they’re who they are, and that’s fine.

I think that maybe when you write fiction for long enough, you come to care about your characters as much as you care about the real people that pass through your life. You listen to them. You watch them. If you’re lucky they don’t judge too harshly. And if you’re really lucky they build their own bridge between minds. And hearts. Then you know you’ve done your job as a writer, and what critics say fades into the background. If, sometimes, it doesn’t, it makes you more determined to do the best you can. Better than you can. Being better than you think you can is like armor. Armor that creaks and sometimes rusts, but stands strong. Just be prepared to fall while wearing it. Getting back up is a nightmare, but the entire process of the writing life can be the stuff of dreams.

Here we go again with the split personality of that sometimes evil monster, sometimes pussy cat known as opinion. And again with my favorite example, Anthony Hopkins. Probably not my best litmus test, since I enjoy everything he does.

Apparently not all movie critics agree. Radically. I came across a RED 2 review that started out with some opinions saying how awesome he is in it. Duh. He’d be awesome reading a phone book (those endangered relics of technologies past) on a bare stage by himself, with acoustics only the pigeons in the rafters could love.

Then the naysaying contingent piped up. I think this was all a dissection of this new RED 2 trailer. I wasn’t sure when the critiquing digressed into finding fault with some of his other work. Seems there’s an element that does not approve of what they call scenery chewing, and I call endearing goofiness.

You know that rare and pesky gift… individuality

Oh, sure, he could sleepwalk through his lines. I can’t imagine that he would, based on the scores of his movies I’ve seen. He could blend into the pile up of like aged actors whose names I get mixed up until I see their faces. There is no mistaking Sir Anthony Hopkins, whether he’s being Shakespeare’s Titus, Thor’s thundering father, or the best Hannibal ever.

That’s. A. Good. Thing.

I have no clue which of the mannerisms and quirky moments are his own invention, which ones lie at the feet of a director, or what can be traced all the way back to a screenwriter. Well, except for when he quacked like a duck in August, since he directed that one. All I know is that they’re all part of what makes me love to watch this wondrously talented actor. And when I see RED 2, I’ll eagerly watch for the bits where his mad scientist puts up his dukes to offer fisticuffs with Bruce Willis and funny walks on the tarmac.

Unpredictability, people.

It’s what makes the difference between mere talent and glorious talent. And it’s one of the many reasons I love to watch movies, and my favorite actor in them.