Sylvia Plath was a wonderful poet. But just as Hemingway and Bukowski (literary merits aside) have inspired many young writers, myself included, into romanticizing heavy drinking, so too has Plath inspired many young women (and men) into believing that depression is desirable.
No. Plath was beautiful, but her depression was not. It was tragic and regrettable. So, on her birthday, I think it is a good time to recommend to all my followers not to blindly worship our heroes, to not fall into the dangerous trap of idealizing mental illness. Respect their strength, their beauty, their work. But keep in mind that depression does not make you a deeper person. No “trait” of a writer makes you a writer, other than writing itself.
Never reject help because you fear it compromises your work. Take care of your soul. The writing will come, regardless, and it can be beautiful and inspired as long as you are inspired by the beauty around and in you. And you are all beautiful human beings.
Beautiful point, John.
I’m not a writer. I just really like this.
I’m just saying, keeping this on your desktop actually works.
“Why, for example, do the great writers use anticipation instead of surprise? Because surprise is merely an instrument of the unusual, whereas anticipation of a consequence enlarges our understanding of what is happening. Look at a point of land over which the sun is certain to rise, Coleridge said. If the moon rises there, so what? The senses are startled, that’s all. But if we know the point where the sun will rise as it has always risen and as it will rise tomorrow and the next day too, well, well! At the beginning of “Hamlet” there can be no doubt that by the play’s end, the prince will buy it. Between start and finish, then, we may concentrate on what he says and who he is, matters made more intense by our knowing he is doomed. In every piece of work, at one juncture or another, a writer has the choice of doing something weird or something true. The lesser writer will haul up the moon.” -Roger Rosenblatt, How to Write Great
There seems to be a feeling among readers these days that if they see an event coming, the book is less than it might’ve been. I couldn’t disagree more.
I stand with Rosenblatt in celebrating anticipation over surprise. Even when reading mystery novels, the pleasure for me is never in the feeling of, oh I didn’t see THAT coming. The pleasure is living with another’s dread and pain and yearning and hope. All of that is a hell of a lot more fulfilling than being surprised by the killer’s identity.
This is the whole reason foreshadowing exists. Foreshadowing, at its best, is not a trick demonstrated to brag about what a fancy writer you can be. It’s about building anticipation, so that the reader can more fully empathize with the characters in the story: I want s/he to battle and hope against the inevitable while reading just as we all do while living. When it works, anticipation is far more fulfilling than surprise, because we are reminded that a sunrise is precisely as magnificent as it is inevitable.
In the West, plot is commonly thought to revolve around conflict: a confrontation between two or more elements, in which one ultimately dominates the other. The standard three- and five-act plot structures—which permeate Western media—have conflict written into their very foundations. A “problem” appears near the end of the first act; and, in the second act, the conflict generated by this problem takes center stage. Conflict is used to create reader involvement even by many post-modern writers, whose work otherwise defies traditional structure.
The necessity of conflict is preached as a kind of dogma by contemporary writers’ workshops and Internet “guides” to writing. A plot without conflict is considered dull; some even go so far as to call it impossible. This has influenced not only fiction, but writing in general—arguably even philosophy. Yet, is there any truth to this belief? Does plot necessarily hinge on conflict? No. Such claims are a product of the West’s insularity. For countless centuries, Chinese and Japanese writers have used a plot structure that does not have conflict “built in”, so to speak. Rather, it relies on exposition and contrast to generate interest. This structure is known as kishōtenketsu.
omg! I CAN’T
Okay, clearly I am not produced screenwriter like Ryan Murphy, so maybe I don’t have the credentials to talk about this stuff, but here’s my problem with how this scene is written:
In this scene, the stage directions tell the actors how to act. In other words, the stage direction before Artie speaks is “hurt,” so Kevin McHale is told to act hurt. Then it says “more sad than anything,” so he is told to act sad. And perhaps worst of all we have “an emotional beat. Then to cover up his emotion—”. In this direction, Kevin McHale is told not only that Artie should be emotional, but also that Artie is covering it up.
This is the problem with the writing on Glee. It is very prescriptive and does not give the actors room to do what they do best—act! When an actor approaches a script, s/he is expected to delve deeply into the mind, world, and perspective of their character, but being told to act “sad” or “hurt” completely sabotages the actor’s work by telling them how to be instead of letting them discover who their character is. Obviously, these actors are excellent or they would not have been cast. Now, Ryan Murphy needs to get out of their way and let this brilliant cast do what it does best and see where the winds of art takes the show.