Thursday, February 07, 2008

What Kind of Experience?

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m addicted to listening to the Stephanie Plum adventures in my car. At the end of one of the audiobooks, an interview with Janet Evanovich is included.

In it, she says that she considers herself more an "entertainer" than a "writer."

At first, I wrote that off as one of those things one says because it sounds good and you’re being interviewed. But as it worked in my subconscious, I started looking at writers and their various styles.

Online, you often see writers, particularly in flash fiction contests, being clever. They’re writing to other writers, creating a fictional inside joke. That would be a writer writing for other writers.

In novels, some writers, like Janet Evanovich, write to entertain. God bless her. She’s given me a lot of laughs since DH has been gone. And when we’re together, we share a lot of laughs while listening to her audiobooks.

Then there’s writers who write to inspire, writers who write to provoke, to motivate, to persuade, to promote understanding, to arouse, to show love, and a multitude of other reasons.

It strikes me that if we want to entertain, we can’t write the prose that will impress other writers. Janet Evanovich would not be nearly as big as she is if she wrote with beautiful prose.

I always start my stories with the reader in mind. I want to imagine, at least, what they’re like and where they’re coming from. And then I ask myself, what kind of experience do I want them to have? How can I provide that experience?

So what about you? What experience are aiming to give your readers with your current WIP? What feelings do you want them to feel?

PS: I go to the dentist on Monday. Got it under control, though, by rinsing with salt every hour, taking mineral and calcium supplements, and a little bit of colloidal silver. (I can even eat!) I’m sorry I haven’t been too interactive lately; I have to do the last bits of that project I was working on a few weeks ago, which means I do most of my blog-reading in bathtub or my bed on my palm pilot. (Yep, I’m addicted to you guys.) But that means commenting is nearly impossible, unfortunately. :-(

16 bonus scribbles:

Zoe Winters 2/07/2008 06:15:00 PM  

I want them to want to go have sex. Kinda bald, but there it is.

Liz Wolfe 2/07/2008 06:30:00 PM  

I'm all about the entertainment. I read for entertainment and I write for entertainment. I don't think about themes. I don't even think as lot about character growth, although that tends to happen anyway.

The Literary Prostitute,  2/07/2008 10:29:00 PM  

This is interesting because I thought the same thing about Janet Evanovich. My Mother gave me HARD EIGHT for Christmas several years ago, and when I first started reading, I thought, "This woman can't write her way out of a box!" Yet I grew addicted to Stephanie and Ranger and Morelli,and for her, I can overlook the cliches and trite descriptions and dangling metaphors.

Of course, if I read a Dean Koontz novel and found the same level of writing, I would be gravely disappointed.

Edie 2/08/2008 12:04:00 AM  

I think of myself as a writer, not an entertainer, but I guess I write on the entertainment level. I want to write a compelling book that will make the reader feel emotions. As a bonus, I'd like to make her think too. :) My favorite books do both.

I was wondering about your tooth. Glad the pain is down.

Bernita 2/08/2008 07:46:00 AM  

I want them to share my MC's emotions, her fear, her surprise, her determination.

Aimless Writer 2/08/2008 07:53:00 AM  

I think writers are entertainers. After all, its what we do. Maybe on a different level but we still entertain. Some folks just view it from another angle.
I write to get the voices out of my head! (jk)
I write because I can't stop myself from writing. Maybe its therapy? lol

Angie 2/08/2008 08:36:00 AM  

There are definitely writers out there who are incredibly entertaining despite having major craftsmanship issues. I've never read Janet Evanovich, but I've read others who gave me that impression. Maybe I'm a marginal opinion because I'm a writer and do notice these things, but I've never read anything by one of these folks without thinking, "Wow, this person would really rock if they polished their skills!"

Some people have that storytelling talent and can make us enjoy their work even if we're wincing as we read, but they'd be that much better if they worked on the craftsmanship. And while it's also true that some writers have the technical skill but don't seem to have whatever "it" is that lets writers tell interesting and engaging stories, I've never read anything by a writer who had both kinds of skills and though, "You know, this'd be so much better if he just wrote down a little more, tossed in some more cliches, used more choppy sentences, let his focus wander off on a few more irrelevant tangents, etc." [wry smile]

Personally, I try to do both. I want my readers to become engaged with my characters, to care about what happens to them and want them to triumph, to empathize when bad things happen to them and be happy when they win the prize. I want readers to think that what happens to my characters is interesting and worth reading about, that there was a point to it all once they've finished the story. I want my characters to feel like they could be real people, like they're people the reader would like to know. Or in some cases, that they're real people the readers are very happy they don't know. :)

At the same time, though, I work on my craftsmanship -- mechanics and structure and pacing, sentences and paragraphs and POV and all the other skills that go into writing. I want to do both sides well, storytelling and craftsmanship, and I work on improving both, because I think readers notice when one or the other is lacking.


Josephine Damian 2/08/2008 11:44:00 AM  

Spy: Since I come to novel writing after having written screenplays - it's all about the entertainment - I'll take money over critical success any day - the only person I want to impress is my accountant.

Ooooh, a trip to the dentist. :-(

spyscribbler 2/08/2008 04:28:00 PM  

LOL, Zoe!! With DH gone, I have a full-blown crush on Ranger at the moment.

Liz, I'm just loving the entertainment of it right now. Last night I went to see Atonement, and while I loved it and thought it was brilliant, I cried all the way home. And woke up depressed. I want DH home safe and sound. Juxtapose that with the Stephanie Plum series I'm listening to in the car which makes me laugh, and I'm loving Janet Evanovich much more than Ian McEwan.

spyscribbler 2/08/2008 04:30:00 PM  

Literary, this is just my thinking, but I feel like Evanovich wields the cliches, incorrect grammar, and all the other "wrong" things she does. She uses it as style, wisely, and it really works.

PS: Have you tried High Five? That's where things got really good. The cliffhanger at the end of High Five was really big. Something to think about when/if ever planning a series.

spyscribbler 2/08/2008 04:32:00 PM  

Edie, that's cool. The best of both worlds! I don't think of myself as an entertainer, either, but I'm wondering if I should.

Bernita, I think that's one of the best things about reading. I get to share everything with the character.

LOL, Aimless! I like that, "I write to get the voices out of my head!" The first time I finished a story, I slept like a baby. No imagining. It was SUCh a great feeling.

spyscribbler 2/08/2008 04:35:00 PM  

Yeah, Angie. Evanovich breaks all the rules, but I've always felt she did it as a rule of craft, as a technique, rather than lack of skill. I think it's her strength as a writer, actually.

It sounds like you want the reader to share the experience of your characters, too. That's cool. :-)

Josephine, I am terrified of dentists. :-( I enjoy the paycheck, too. It makes me feel good to earn money for our little family, as stupid as that sounds.

Zoe Winters 2/08/2008 07:01:00 PM  

lol Spy is Ranger one of your characters? (If you've mentioned this before I'm sorry I missed it or wasn't paying close enough attention)

Yeah I have a crush on a lot of my characters. One character I decided not to kill cause he was hot and evil and I might use him later.

spyscribbler 2/09/2008 10:49:00 AM  

WHO is Ranger??? Zoe!!!! That's like ... that's like ... that's like asking who is Buffy?

Ranger is in Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum series. I swear to God, all he has to do is tug her hair and I practically orgasm. He is probably my sexual ideal, LOL. He's perfect.

Edittorrent 2/10/2008 11:26:00 AM  

What an interesting post! But shouldn't we always be entertained by our entertainment?

Even if a story makes you cry, it can be entertaining. I recently watched "The Namesake" (based on the Jumpha Lahiri novel) and sobbed my way through the last half. It was sad and I was completely riveted.


spyscribbler 2/10/2008 11:37:00 AM  

LOL, Theresa. Yes! Sounds like a wise thing.

I meant entertain as make laugh and such. Sometimes a good sob session can be wonderfully purging. And entertaining, it's true, but in a different way.

I think, as readers, we tend to be in the mood for one or the other. And as writers, we should keep in mind the experience we're aiming for.