Who said Write what you knowWhoever said write what you know.
Loss? Many people attribute it to Hemingway, who is often quoted: You can forget what other people say and just write what you know.
Don't write what you know.
On Wednesdays I give an orientation at Harvard University, and on the first days of the course I give out a schedule of things the student should not do. Don't go off on a tale with an alarmer going off. Don't end a tale with the whole thing being a suicide letter.
Don't Write What You Know. Firstly, as with all authors, as long as they can recall, they have been expressly or tacitly urged to write what they know, so the prospects of giving up this idea now are confusing. Two, they know a great deal. They' re infinitely interesting individuals, their life is full of unique and convincing experience, and all too often they believe that these experience will enable them to be authors.
To encourage them not to write what they know sound like a soccer trainer saying riding on a bank with a right hand hood. To me it is the distinction between destiny, which is only important for those who know the writer, and destiny, which is important.
I should confess, in a full disclosing sense, that I was reproached for having written what I know on many opportunities. Friends, critics, nice people who took part in open lectures, and all of them have asked me to write autobiographic notions. One of the women at a lecture once said to me: "I really liked your text, but the tales made me believe that you would be bigger.
My father was Corpus Christi, Texas, the part of the land where most of my novels take place. There is no doubt that if you are reading Corpus Christi: Tales, you will see some of the things in my lives in the tales, but very few of the experience in this volume is my own.
I was impelled in early reminiscences of some of my tales to try to capture how certain things had happened in my whole lifetime, but the third design was boring me beyond my means. As I knew how the tales ended in reality, I had a fairly clear understanding of what they "meant", so that the tale could not astonish or offer me an occasion to marvel.
And I wrote to tell you, not to do it. It was as interesting as a puzzling piece of crosswords I had already done. Rather than think of my experience as a structure that I wanted to build in my own imagination, I began to see it as the scaffold that would be demolished when the work was finished.
While I took small things from my own lives to evocate a place and the humans who live there, these things were used to brighten my lyric. In the past I had compelled my own destiny to adapt to the outline of my own lives; now I chose every point at which an action could be redirected by what I knew.
When I wrote I wrote my own destiny, I wrote my own fictions to save William Trevor, not to say anything, but to get away from myself. Now when I remember these tales, the lightning of my auto-biography reminds me of constellations of asterisks. Where does the "write what you know" rationale come from? Many people blame Hemingway, but what I think is that he said that:
"Of all things you know and all things you don't know, through your invention you do something that is not representational, but a whole new thing that is more real than anything real and living. "A similar transfer issue is undermining the rationale of the letter, and the irony is that Hemingway may have always argued against it.
Acting as an act of side experiencing is necessarily an act of curtailment, and regardless of craftsmanship or dexterity, visions or voices, the outcome is a history that is committed to the original materials and unavoidably pushed into the background. Part of me is dying inwardly when a criticized history scholar answers the studio and says: "You can't argue with the _____________-szene.
" He prefers the facts of an experiment, the so-called verbal truths, to the fictional fictitiousness. Designed in this way, the author's history is degraded to an insuperable and sublime one. It can neither rival nor survive without the primordial one. The only aspiration of such a novelist is that the character and event represents other and better understood characters: real character and event.
That is, the history you wrote was never the most important thing. This means that the readers should be less concerned about the character and more about the one who inspires them, and the plot in a storyline serves to make us trace its origin and view the footage as more true. That means the history is constructed - and it is supposed to revolve around something.
Superiority in the fictional world is anything but fatal. Tales aren't about things. Tales are things. Tales aren't about action. Tales are deeds in themselves. Let me be quite clear: I am not telling the pupils not to search for possible histories through their life. But I don't want, say, a military man who worked in Iraq to write history of battle.
He' loaded his fictions with elaborate martial detail. I' d like history to create the textures of sands and the sound of a Baghdad bazar, the horrible and lovely colour of the band of smokes from the course of its M-4. It was his experiment to free his fantasy, not limit it.
One thing I don't want - and what happens when authors go out to write what they know - is that he thinks an imaginary tale is less pressing, less shattering or less genuine than a real one. Hemon combines two stories in this great and exciting novel - the 1908 Chicago assassination of Lazarus Averbuch and today's trip of a novelist called Brik through East Europe to research a novel about Lazarus.
Cezanne' s still life with bulbs, as well as his colour, linen and onion, are used for the fictional of Hemon. It is not the aim to depict an event, but to make a work of artwork that is itself an itinerary. A MacArthur Fellowship receiver, Hemon, said in a recent interview: "I retain the right to deal with every facet of my personal experiences, and this means that I must go beyond my own experiences to get involved.
On the other hand, as we speak of wartime, we look at Tim O'Brien's book of tales, The Things They Canried. However, in "Good Form", one of the brief narratives in the series, the storyteller says: "The truths of history are sometimes truthful. "I have always found a lasting consolation in this aspiration, and the consolation is reinforced by the fact that the storyteller is a man who shared so much of the author's ancestry - his experi ¬ence in Vietnam, his present literature calling, even his era and his name.
O'Brien could have wrote the "happening truth" of his story and named it a tag. However, by deciding on the fictional, especially after he has made a factual report about his own past and present, he implicitly recognizes that something is won when you let your fantasy go on the story, something deep and revealing and living: sensitivity. For me, the most secure way for authors and readers to communicate with a character is through Empathy.
When a person's own experiences limit a history, often to the point of abstract, they sharpen and emancipate at the same time the feeling of being empathetic. O'Brien writes: "Here is history - reality. A further deep, more important part of me died when a pupil in the shop said: "What I wanted to do was __________________. "I am disturbed by the concept of a novelist who wants to "do" something in a film.
It'?s a feeling of compassion for the people, a true feeling of vane. I remember Ron Carlson's funny tale "What We Wanted to Do", in which a group of village people intend to pour a kettle of cooking fuel on the Visigoths who are entering their door. This is a good lecture for novels: tales driven by intention never hit their peak.
To write what you know is intentionally tied together, and the intent in a fictional work is always connected with controversy, with stiffness and usually with a little soul. Authors seem to have selected an incident because it is illustrating a point or making an argument. Whenever a novelist has a mission to convey, there is often a bit of complacency in the narrative, a disturbing feeling that the narrator is rushing through the movements and rushing the character towards the last page of sage.
As with the character's, my participation in the narrative becomes completely passiv. Perhaps the most difficult thing I can listen to in the classroom is a students assertion that he doesn't "feel comfortable" when he writes certain tales. He' s ill-equipped to write about people he doesn't like in the mirrors and in the bedrooms, so he writes what he knows again.
I' m arguing that if the theme or characters are daunting, then that's exactly what the author should be investigating in cinematography. Yet when empathy is important for the fictional, sympathy is inestimable. As an" as an artisans' history expert, I am always conscious that the second floor" of a house once related to its mural paintings.
" And I also recall that the wall paintings on the inside wall of a house were usually a historical narrative, and so when you were on the 4th storey, when you saw the 4th picture, you were on the 4th upstairs. All of us are entering there, but our spiritual desires, our deformed personalities, are rising as quickly as possible.
Authors can input their tales through literally experiencing them, through the basement, but there is an imperative to go beyond the basic plane, to overcome the boundaries of fact and aversion and up. I also think of my literature workshops on Wednesday, which talk about those who don't even know me, and how relaxed the pupils are when I keep them from doing what they know.
In order to revive them - or at least to save my course valuation results - I say my own belief that a fictional act is an act of bravery and modesty, a remonstration against our death rate, and we, the writers, play no role. It is our personalities, those constructs of fantasy that can overturn our prejudices and ideas, our ego and demands and our being.
You should rely on the example of the writers you like to study - Flaubert: "Emma, c' est moi" - and you should rely on your handicraft, if it is woven with sympathy, to create tales that are important both to you and to the reader you have never known. Every single working day their tales are gripping and worthwhile, and with each review I am more upbeat, calmer and mobilized.
In other words, my pupils are about as successful as most authors, as often as I am - in other words, often enough. While reading their good fairy tale, I sometimes wonder if I have not understood something basic and important. I have long thought that what kept the authors, myself too, from completely transforming their own experience on the site was the anxiety of incompetence:
Can' t write an action involving an abduction because I was never abducted, etc. What if it's the opposite? But what if the cause why we find it so hard to separate our own fictions from our experiences, the cause why we are so reluctant to preoccupy ourselves with our imagination and let the tale go over the bottom shelf of reality, is not that we are scared that we are doing the work badly, but that we are scared that we are doing it too well?
When we manage, when the protagonists are fully imaginary, when they are so beautiful and realistic that they become faster and stand up from the side, then perhaps our own experience will be smaller, our action less consistent. Perhaps we are fear that when we write what we do not know, we are discovering something true than anything our true life will ever give.
Perhaps we face another, more treacherous menace - the threatening that if we do our work too well, if we portray powerful personalities who are detached from our experiences, they will drive us out of the reader's skull. Perhaps we are scared of what we want most - our personalities should survive us - and perhaps the chance that the author, not the readers, gets wasted in the pages of a big volume is too much for us.
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