Note: I wrote the stuff below 24 hours ago, before reading this thread. I'm not taking issue with it; I agree that writers must learn from other writers; no writer is expected to invent the art of English prose from scratch. But the importance of 'seeing anew' has been on my mind a lot lately.
Some recent thoughts about writing.
It seems to me that one of the hardest things to do successfully in writing fiction is to think anew. To see anew. To look at the world with fresh eyes and tell the reader about what it looks like. One of the most awful traps is lack of originality, just rehashing stuff that's been done before. 'Stuff' means prose, plot, theme, character.
Being original, I've found, is goddam difficult. It's one of the most difficult parts of writing. (Except for all the other difficult parts.)
And if it's not for originality, for the joy of finding something new, why read? It's lack of originality that has kept me away from TV for the past decade or two: I can predict the punch lines half the time. I can predict the plot twists. Why bother watching?
In writing, there are multiple different levels on which writing has to be original. Just avoiding verbal clichés is only the crudest level. Much more difficult is avoiding clichés of theme, plot, character, atmosphere. So many times I think I've hit on a plausible story idea, but when I've thought about a moment, I realize, "Wait, I've read that someplace before." I haven't thought anew, I've just dredged up something from memory. I'm not talking about plagiarism, or rewriting a particular story, but rather reusing an idea that has already been done to death, or reusing a character that every one knows.
But there's another danger here, the mirror-image of unoriginality, and that's novelty for the sake of novelty. This goes down somewhat better than clichéd writing, I see it in published fiction all the time: bizarre stuff that doesn't make a great deal of sense, but by god, it's original, no one ever did anything like that before. I think novelty masquerades as originality a lot. And in fact, it drives me nuts a little less than clichés do. But just a little. I'm not against novelty. Novelty is fine. But it's not a substitute for originality.
Good writing, writing that is worth reading, is not only exciting, beautiful, and suspenseful, but it gives the reader a new view of the world, a new map to lay on reality, a new way to interpret and organize experience. It makes the reader say, "Damn, I never thought of that." It is subversive of the miasma of clichés that surrounds us as we walk though the world.
And it's damned hard to do.
== gunshuu == crowd
|Right radical is 'sheep' (羊). Left radical is 'lord' (君), acting phonetically to express 'assemble' and also lending its literal meaning of 'command with a stick'. This character originally referred to herding sheep. Henshall suggests as a mnemonic: 'Lord of sheep flock.'|