May 21st, 2004


Possible payback?

The finger-wagging, cynical taskmaster of writing, John Gardner, tells his students in The Art Of Fiction that one of the most grievous errors a novice writer can commit is what he terms “frigidity.” He also finds overwriting a particularly nasty trait so I’ll boil down his eighteen-page treatise on frigidity into a sentence. It happens when an author betrays his character by having them act outside the boundaries of what the writer has established thus taking the reader out of the continuous dream of reading.

I’m afraid I stumbled face first into Gardner’s theory the other day with a particularly bitter entry of an early morning street fight between a disturbed woman and myself. While I’m not a novel’s character and lord knows, at times, I hanker to be fictional, I’d like to think the portrait I’ve created is accurate although painted with my left hand: clumsy, childlike, and hapless. The truth is, I also have a scrappy side that emerges in ways that shock even me. I probably could have framed the public brawl into a less rancorous confrontation, and I definitely would have excised that last line; something I wrote with humor running rampant in my head but on the page, it just read dirty. But I don’t want to talk about that now. No. I’d much rather tell of my complete humiliation at work last evening.

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