Okay, time for me to admit it: I'm blocked. I've been futzing and cat-waxing and putting off writing for a couple of weeks. Time to come to grips with it.
I think I know why. It's performance anxiety. I'm afraid of failure.
Thirty years ago, I gave up writing for a different reason: I felt I had no ideas. I wasn't creative enough. I had nothing to write about. Now, I've got plenty of ideas, and lots to write about. I've been keeping a file of story ideas for the last year. It's 10K words, ideas, characters, snippets of prose. It's got enough stuff in it to keep me busy for a couple of years, and there are two or three stories that I'm really enthusiastic about, and want to do right now.
But I'm afraid. Afraid that I'll screw them up. Afraid that my skills aren't up to the task of telling them right.
I think this is because over the past year I've been getting more critical of writing in general, both mine and others. This is good, and necessary. But it also enables me to see the weaknesses in my own writing, and makes the path ahead more daunting.
I don't think there's any simple solution to this. Perhaps recognizing it will help.
Heard melodies are sweet, but those unheard are sweeter. But for anyone else to hear those melodies, they have to be made flesh, written down, however imperfectly, as best I can.
And finally, a tiny little epiphany (I think), that came up and bopped me on the shin while I was reviewing one of Carol Burrell's chapters on OWW: to make the reader care about your character, put him in danger. Big danger or little danger, social danger or physical danger or moral danger, but put him at risk, and be sure the reader knows it.
It's an issue that's been on my mind lately: the reader must be
convinced to care about the protagonist. Every really great story I've ever read
has had a great central character. Doesn't have to be a good guy (think of Cugel
in Jack Vance's Eyes of the Overworld, an absurd, hilarious, and
infuriating villain, but a guy you can't take your eyes off), but the reader has
to be fascinated with the character, and care what happens to them. I've been
thinking about how to do this. This isn't the whole answer, but it's part of it:
put the character in danger.
I think almost every writer, even a bad or beginning writer, does this to some degree almost without intending it. Stories are, after all, about conflict, and conflict implies something to lose. But it's important for the writer consciously to understand what he's doing, let the reader know, clearly and early on, what danger the character is in, and use it ruthlessly to drive the reader's interest in the character and pull the reader onward through the story.
道徳 == doutoku == morality
|Left radical is 'go/move'. The right radical is 'heart' (心) and a variant of 'direct/upright' (直). Thus an 'upright heart', i.e., virtue. Henshall suggests remembering the right radical as 'ten' (十), and 'eye' (目), and as a mnemonic: 'Move that virtuous heart is worth ten eyes.'|