Friday, February 2, 2007

The Writer's Jackhammer

Stephen King believes stories are found things, "like fossils in the ground...part of an undiscovered pre-existing world. The writer's job is to use the tools in his or her toolbox to get as much of each one out of the ground intact as possible." He equates plot to a writer's jackhammer, a heavy-handed tool that's "clumsy, mechanical, anticreative." ~On Writing

Many things in his memoir I identify with. For all that I love about his books--his fantastic characters, his appreciation for the macabre, his ability to capture life in an honest, sometimes in-your-face way, this is one point I disagree with. If you picked up those writer's tools--description, dialogue, metaphor, symbolism--each with their own place and purpose, and didn't know the scope, didn't have any idea the parameters beneath, a writer could spend years unearthing the body of a sabre-tooth--a monster of a story--with the equivalent of a toothbrush.

The flesh of a story cannot hang without structure, the bones on which the remainder of the life force of the novel depends. There is a delicate balance between unearthing the fossil and digging a never ending tunnel to China--one I believe Stephen King walks without conscious thought. Would that we all, as writers, have that tool in our toolbox.

Last unearthed fossil for book two: A sharply pointed rib bone

No comments: