Saturday, June 18, 2011

Master Class

Writing is a lonely business where each writer sits and tries to fill the screen with something worth saying. We each deal with our muse idiosyncratically, relying on our imaginations, education, and references to craft unique works. We labor like journeyman artisans prior to the industrial revolution, before knowledge of their master's methods became widespread. We are anchorites by nature and vocation, rarely meeting with others of our tribe, usually for critique sessions.

I've been in a critique group for several years whose members are professional writers of varying accomplishment. Although I'd enjoyed our sessions, in which we read and criticize our most current material, I began to feel that somehow we were missing something; that all this picking at one another's scribblings wasn't accomplishing any improvement in our craftsmanship but merely polishing the finish, as it were, on pieces that had already been forged.

What would happen, I wonder, if we talked instead of techniques, methods, processes, and the other writer's tools that line the backboards of our wordsmithing workbenches? Would we discover preferred ways of plot development or found that sorts of hooks work best? Would we explore the byways of flashbacks or realized where foreshadowing could be used most effectively? Would we agree on those elements that constitute an ideal scene? The list of possible discussions and discoveries goes on, ranging from "what works best for me?" to, simply, what works.

Would my dream assembly of accomplished writers form a master-level seminar where we could meaningfully discuss the how's and why's of the writing craft, without getting into the niggling trivia of a specific story, page, scene, or line of prose? What sort of dialogue would produce the best results? Which subjects would spark the most interest; perhaps development of the protagonist or would it be the meanderings of plot? How much discussion could there be about the traditional triad of character, setting, and time and whether writers necessarily need to appeal to sight, sound, smell, and the kinesthetic aspects in detail? So many questions, so much to be covered. The pressures of imagination and production probably mandate that there would never be enough time, people, and interest to hold such a discussion.

But I can dream.

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