Saturday, October 17, 2009

Writers on Writing

Donis here, feeling awed.  My blogmates have been firing on all cylinders lately, leaving me with the sad and certain knowledge that I have nothing to say this week that is nearly so witty or to the point.  In truth, I cannot tell you how often I think, “I wish I’d said that.”  I am a sucker for a clever turn of phrase, and will remember a good one forever, whether or not I get it exactly right in the retelling. 

Therefore, since I simply can’t say it better myself, following are some quotes by the masters, in no particular order, which have informed and guided me in the craft of writing, creating mysteries, histories, characters, and worlds.

Mickey Spillane, when asked how much research he does in the interest of authenticity:  “None.  My job is not to tell the truth.  My job is to make you believe.”(Note:  I’ve used that quote for years, but when I looked it up for this entry, I see that it’s actually “I don’t research anything.  When I need something, I make it up.” However, I like my version, so there it is. D.)

Walter Mosely: “Fiction is a collusion between the reader and the novel ... Your readers will go along with you, creating a much larger world as they do.”

Walter Mosely : “Too many writers can’s see the forest of the story through the trees of all their detail.”

William Faulkner: “The past is not dead.  In fact, it’s not even past.”

Mark Twain:  “Don’t say ‘the old lady screamed.’  Bring her on stage and let her scream.”

Graham Green: “The moment comes when a character says or does something that you hadn’t thought of.  At that moment, he’s alive and you leave it to him.”

Toni Morrison: “My father told me that once you know a man’s race, you know nothing about him at all.”

Satchel the Dog of the “Get Fuzzy” comic strip :  “Truth is more important than fact.” (Note: He may have stolen this from Frank Lloyd Wright. D.)

Taoist saying: “The fish is not aware of the water it swims in.”

J.A. Jance, on being told by a fan that she didn’t like Jance’s latest book as well as the earlier ones:  “Babe Ruth had 714 career home runs.  He also had 1330 career strike-outs.  If you want to be a success you’ve got to get up to the plate and keep swinging.” (Note : I was standing right next to her when she said this. D.)

Carolyn Hart: “The point of a mystery is never the murder.”

Eric Mayer: “The trick to writing imaginative historical mysteries is keeping just under the radar of the historians.”

Somerset Maugham, when asked if he had a writing schedule or waited until inspiration struck. “Oh, I wait until inspiration strikes.  Fortunately, it strikes every morning at nine o’clock sharp.”

Erica Jong: “Feminism didn’t change deep-seated priorities about what - or who - matters.  I see deeply diminished expectations in young women writers... I would like to see the talented new breed of American women writers ... protest their ghettoization ... let’s celebrate our femaleness rather than fear it.  And let’s mock the old-fashioned critics who dismiss us for thinking love matters.  It does.” 

(Note: the above  quote, taken from Jong’s article entitled “Ghetto (Not) Fabulous”, which appeared in Publisher’s Weekly, on April 9, 2007, can be changed as follows and make an equally cogent point:

“The popularity of crime fiction didn’t change deep-seated priorities about what type of literature matters.  I see deeply diminished expectations in mystery writers.  I would like to see the talented new breed of American crime fiction writers protest their ghettoization.  Let’s celebrate our genre rather than fear it.  And let’s mock the old-fashioned critics who dismiss us for thinking genre fiction has real meaning.  It does.” D.)

Oh, my.  I could go on for pages, but fear not, Dear Reader.  I shan’t. 

Except for my very favorite --

Steven Pressfield: “Creative work is not a selfish act or a bid for attention on the part of the actor.  It’s a gift to the world and every being in it.  Don’t cheat us of your contribution.  Give us what you’ve got.”


1 comment:

Charles benoit said...

Any post that quotes Satchel is a great post - the other quotes are interesting, too.