Friday, February 19, 2010

The Art of Time in Fiction by Joan Silber

One of the reasons I like teaching writing is I like talking about craft. A lot of people, even teachers, don't really care for the idea of zooming in on various technical elements of writing and talking about them in prescriptive ways. They worry, justifiably, that doing so oversimplifies writing and makes it more mechanical. But I like it for two reasons--I like reading for craft (duh, whole blog about it) as a way of reading in and of itself, and I find it useful when brainstorming to actively think about how some of these craft elements could enter a new piece. I tend to let go of such distinct thoughts on craft once I'm actually drafting, but it helps me conceptualize. This would horrify some because it's a very self-conscious way to write, but hey, I get to do it any way I want. But also, and here's my point, I think it's fun to invent names for things that haven't been named. And Joan Silber, in this craft book from Graywolf's "The Art of" series edited by Charles Baxter, does a great job of naming different ways of depicting the passage of time: classic time, long time, switchback time, slowed time, fabulous time... And after giving these different practices names, she's able to dissect what they do and how they are created. It's a simplistic thought, but one of the ways we, as writers, can look more closely at craft is by first naming what's happening... name it so you can study it. Anyway, you'll have to read the book, which I recommend, to actually learn something about time...I'm just musing about craft writing in general.

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