Thursday, July 24, 2014

arguments against dangerous philosophies (a blog hop for Marly Youmans)

Poet/novelist Marly Youmans tagged me as part of a blog hop, a thing with which I was heretofore unfamiliar. So, being the good sport that I am, I am playing along.

What am I working on? I am drafting a novel whose working title is Antosha in Prague. It's a collection of short fictions based loosely on the stories and life of Saint Anton Chekhov. So far, this project is a lot of fun. I'm about halfway through the first draft of the title story now. I am also tidying up a couple of manuscripts and submitting a couple of other novels to publishers.

How does my work differ from others in its genre? I have no idea. I don't think in terms of genre, although if one considers "literary fiction" to be fiction about or concerned with literature, I might be inclined to notice that my novels allude to other works of fiction all the damned time. Characters in my Mona in the Desert constantly discuss literature and philosophy. The protagonist of Antosha in Prague thinks about fiction with some regularity.

Why do I create what I do? Again, I really have no idea. I suffer from the fictional impulse, which I guess means that one of my primary ways of engaging with the world is to turn it into fiction, which is also a way of abstracting the world, so go figure. If I have any moral purpose in writing, it is to correct sinners and evangelize the gospel of kindness and humility. If I have any immoral purpose in writing, it is the usual egotistic artistic wish to draw attention to my imagined cleverness. Also, writing a novel is a wonderful puzzle to solve; I try to make each puzzle harder for me by trying difficult technical tricks in each one. And I like making things by hand, as it were.

How does my creative process work? I usually have a couple of different ideas for novels stewing in my head, some of them trapped there for years until I know that I must write them now. Often "knowing that I must write them now" is the step that immediately follows my having an idea that I don't think I can actually pull off. I come equipped with a great deal of ego and sometimes believing that I have set an impossible task before myself makes that task irresistible. Anyway, I think of stories as sort of tapestries, or quite long murals, and little by little I assemble a sketch of the whole, or at least sketches of the big pieces that will hopefully lift the work above the earth. Sometimes those pieces are characters or scenes; sometimes they're ideas about life or arguments against dangerous philosophies. Usually I try to scrub out those arguments when I'm revising my work, or at least shove them into the background. Mostly, then, what I do is assemble a collage of ideas and impressions and then write a novel to dramatize that collage.

Who next? I am obligated to pick on four other creative types, I think. I am going to pick on just two: Michelle Argyle and Davin Malasarn. They are both young novelists who have been to my house and have met the cat. The cat approves of them.

6 comments:

  1. So, Scott, are you finding that this collection is progressing slower, faster, or at the same pace as your novels? Is writing several short stories very different from writing several chapters for you?

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    1. There's a sort of thematic arc to the book, so in that respect it's like a novel. The Antosha character remains the same person, more-or-less, from story to story, but all the other characters are new in each story (so far). So that's different. I've found that because there's no single through-line of action in this book, it's too easy to walk away from it for long breaks. But I think, overall, I'm accumulating words at the same rate I do when writing a proper novel. It's strange, though. It will be interesting to see at the end of the process if the stories add up to something. I hope they do!

      I've been thinking about Kawabata and your writing. I'll actually have a real answer for you at some point. The answer will have to do with transparency of scene and the careful laying out of facts, as well as simplicity of prose and a certain way of examining character moment by moment. Hey, that's most of the answer right there; I just need to find examples to illustrate it.

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    2. I've been thinking about The Hanging Man and what you said about resolution or the lack of resolution. Bailey, I think we have a lot of writerly topics to address!

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  2. Like that! It is so utterly Scott Bailey...

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    1. I had no choice but to write it that way! This was fun; thanks for tagging me!

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    2. Any time! I'm glad you had no choice. Many people, it seems, do have a choice of writing out of other than what they are. I like it that you write the way you do! I like it that you "have no idea" and go with your deepest instincts.

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