Wednesday, February 1, 2012

All of my stories are allegories

According to our old friend Merriam-Webster, all stories - and not just mine - might be construed as allegories:

allegory : the expression by means of symbolic fictional figures and actions of truths or generalizations about human existence; also : an instance (as in a story or painting) of such expression.

...but I don't know if all writers think of their stories as allegories. I definitely didn't think of my stories in that way in 2010: indeed, I avoided any such construal or even the possibility that I might write an "idea" (as opposed to a "plot" or "character") story, because I had been reading a lot of "how-to-write" material, and "how-to-write" material generally dissuades anything but the most superficial form of writing (characters that "write themselves," for example, or that "do what they want" "against the author's wishes" - as if this could actually happen to a sane person, rather than someone who had just internalized market desires or alienated themself from themself). But looking at those stories with the ever-more critical eye of the Future Self, I can see the value-ladenness of even these works. The values there were fame and fortune - usually with a side of irony and inside jokes - because I was trying to write valueless stories, non-metaphors, sheer action and speech, non-ethical tracts in the guise of the most ethical art: story-telling.

This tidbit of thought sprouting forth from my mind at this moment is related directly to a thought I was having about how un-passionate so many authors seem. I don't mean they're not passionate about their writing, but rather about the elements that go into their writing. I don't usually go to author blogs and see strong endorsements for arch-conservative political parties, revolutionary socialist propaganda, pro- or anti-war sentiment, etc. Neither do most people speak about their spirituality, ethics, religion; and these two things - politics and religion - and arguably the most important things to human individuals (alongside art, I might say). That authors don't talk about their beliefs isn't true in toto, but most definitely in general; and it's not something that pertains just to the "young bucks" (i.e., new writers, like me) who are my most frequent entrée on the auctorial blog circuit, but also major-leaguers who've been publishing for years. When I think about what I know of some of my favourite authors, I realize I don't know what they believe outside of what I can suck out of their art; and even then, they might semi-deny it - like China Miéville, who seems to say that neo-communist propaganda only appears in his work by happenstance, because he just happens to think about that kind of stuff.

I suppose there's good reason not to get all hot-blooded and passionate when you're trying, basically, to sell a product; and maybe we authors are too caught up in the craft or art of creating the final object that we don't take the time to think about the prevailing beliefs that go in to our work. But all stories have meaning - even stories whose meaning is to have un-meaning (since that is its own meaning) - and, before we let critics dredge up our intents, our directionality, our teleology, values, etc., it's probably worth thinking: "What am I saying with my subtext?"

A lot of the stuff I've been writing lately is pure subtext, which is pretty obvious because the narratives themselves are so helter-skelter and devoid of sense. But I'm happy with that (for now). I don't really know, beyond various crass motivations, why I started writing; but I've made pretty deliberate attempts to continue writing because of the opportunity to express myself. A lot of writing teachers/experts talk about making characters authentic and whatnot, but I just make characters do what I need them to do. They are the clay, as it were; they won't be sculpting me, thank you very much. And that's not to say we should not give writers the ability to say they write from the subconscious, or that their work has no conscious meaning; that's perfectly acceptable. But every work has some meaning, and it's important; and a non-conscious work has as much possibility to be completely vacuous as it does of being enormously telling.

But perhaps this is just because I'm a generally character-averse, anti-social, cynical self-serving jerkwad.

-bn

1 comment:

  1. I read your post title as "allergies" and so I was confused.

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