The CuriousPages Sketchbook

Writing: Irresistible Temptation

This story just sort of wrote itself. I simply began writing, not knowing where I was going, or whether my words would, indeed, turn into a piece of writing. The old man at the gate delivered his one short comment and then the simple outline came to me: me entering the garden and it turning out to be a lifetime’s trial consisting of all the usual trails that make up a life that is not too happy or fulfilled; in short, the experience that many people seem to have of life.

I completed the story the following day, then edited it a few days later.

Having finished it, I wasn’t sure whether or not I liked it, or to be more accurate, whether or not it was of sufficient substance for me to call it a short story.

What merits does it have, from the reader’s point of view?

The experience of writing the humorous sections, I greatly enjoyed, and I guess that many readers would find those sections equally entering to read.

Apart from this, there is a little mystery, and perhaps the protagonist is sympathetic, in that I myself felt the desire to read on (or to write on) and find out what would happen to him next.

Looking at all the metaphorical elements, of which there are many, and on different levels, these do have something to say about relationships and employment and about the lot of most people in their daily lives—so there is much implied content that many readers would be able to readily relate to. And perhaps this makes the story a satisfying read?

I don’t know. I’m still not convinced of the story’s worth. Perhaps it was too easy for me to write it, so I find it hard to place value on it. I did not toil for hours each day, and for day after day, possibly leading into months and years; the story just seemed to write itself in the space of a few hours, and was only a pleasure for me to produce; in fact, it was more like I was reading a story that had already been written by someone else. Still, as a piece of entertainment, I feel that the story is worth publishing; I feel that many readers would be entertained by it. And if some readers also find it stimulating, then that is a plus.

I think the problem is this. The work seems insubstantial to me because all its psychological content is so obvious—to me. As a writer, I did not discover anything in the writing of this work. Perhaps that is the key. I only consider my own work of value if I discovered something, extended my own knowledge, in the course of writing it. Of course, from the reader’s point of view, this factor is of no significance. And it is quite possible that such a work will seem of more weight to the reader, for since I am only expounding things that are obvious to me (though perhaps gleaned after a few decades of torment), then I will have stated them in an economical manner—without the sort of waffle that a writer tends to indulge in when he is exploring the subject in his own mind as he writes it. Therefore, the resulting economy may invest the work with some substance, in the reader's mind. Perhaps.

The content

The protagonist enters the garden, aged twenty-four, and leaves it, aged sixty-three, having endured a tormented life due to his interactions with other people. Is this biographical? No, of course it is not—I am nowhere near the age of sixty-three!

Of course, all my fiction contains snippets from my life, as does the fiction of all writers. About a month ago I met a new boyfriend, Rhyan. After we had been together for a few days, I asked him if he found me attractive and he gave the wrong answer, which led to a considerable problem between us a few weeks later. In our case, all the problems were due to the way we were misinterpreting each other’s words and actions, and thankfully, all those problems are now blissfully absent between us. And this is the situation I used in the story, but I’ve reversed the rolls. The woman in the boat asked the protagonist if he found her attractive and he gave the wrong answer, when led to a considerable problem between them, which problems were terminal—in their case.

I’m sure that this same situation has been experienced my most people at some stage in their life, and it seems that it is so obvious that it barely merits me referring to it here. I’ve mentioned it purely to give an insight into where some of the ideas come from in my fiction, and into how I use my own experiences.

The content in the rest of the story is heavily metaphorical. Communication being what it is, and the meaning of words (when talking about people, life, relationships, and other such things) being as vague as they are, it occurs to me that this is what gives this technique its power. When the writing is metaphorical, most people will be able to think of incidents from their own life that they imagine the words are referring to, even though those ideas may bear no resemblance to the ones that I had in mind when conjuring up the metaphors. It works like this because there is a delicious vagueness about the meaning of words when we use them to refer to anything that might be called a “personal viewpoint”.

 

1 February 2010


I read the story back this morning. I think I would sum it up as an enjoyable, entertaining read that is making a lightweight comment on life’s journey.

I’m still not sure why I find the story lightweight. Perhaps I get this impression because the story is more an “ideas piece”, rather than focusing on the interaction between characters, which is possibly the most satisfying element of fiction. For the most part, that element is missing from this story (though in the sections where there is some interaction, the story seems to come to life, for me), so “real personalities” are not conjured up in the reader’s mind when he reads it.

Perhaps this is what accounts for my impression. But I don’t know for sure. I only know that I find the story “lightweight.”

Any feedback from readers would be welcome.

 

Read the story here.

 

2 February 2010

 

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