Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Words of Widsom from Orson Scott Card

I haven't had anything really worth blogging about recently. I did come across some notes from a great seminar that Orson Scott Card gave at BYU in commemoration of the 30th anniversary of the publication of "Ender's Game". The notes are a bit disjointed and incomplete, but I was writing as fast as I could. There's some great stuff, some great ideas. So I thought I'd share...

13 Sept 07

“I just make this stuff up”
How seriously should a SF author take his work?

Orson Scott Card

You never know what might matter. The surprise is that it matters to anyone at all. After all I just make this stuff up.

The thing about lies is that so many people give them away. It’s amazing that people will pay for them.

The invention of the telephone caused a huge drop in the # of letters, and thus the amount of historical artifacts about people.

The part of the biographies that is most important and often least available is the childhood…what made them who they are. As an adult we are already formed characters.

Every single person [in the grocery store] is the hero of their own story (the mentality of a novelist)

You need to have an interest in non-literary people. Books about writers are boring.

“Everything of value, every thing that makes me happy comes from the non-literary part of my life.” ~OSC~

Every one of us will have moments of tragedy and triumph that are worth knowing about.

Don’t lightly throw away the scraps of paper that chronicle the details of you life.

Fiction takes us into places that we have never been.

Whenever we are not forced to do something else, we tell stories.

There are different kind of stories.
-Stories about other people
-based on things you know or don’t know
-based on nuance & innuendo you know parts of the stories
-we have a set of assumptions we work off of

Science is also a storytelling field
-they are bout telling why things happen.
-at some time when someone has access to move information, the story can change

At some point all science is (tran-something-ent) all history, etc…

Except Fiction. We know going into it that it isn’t true. No one can supersede the facts the author. Even the works of fiction have facts that can’t be contradicted. Even by the author. To a degree, all fiction is culture talking to itself.

***Look up Alexander McCall Smith – Botswana series. White guy writing about Africans***

Authors already know
-What we already know
-What we expect
-What we needed
-The cultural norms and background

Most of the time this is unconscious on the authors part.

When you read a novel it tells you a lot about the culture surrounding.

Every story is the project of a unique mind.

Everyone is unknowable to us.

A novelist puts down not only parts of the culture, but unknown parts of themselves.

People can know themselves better by reading what they write.

Every work of fiction is accidental autobiography.

The value of fiction is that ~~ When you read someone’s novel (movie, etc) you are the joint collaborator because everything else is playing out in your mind. You allow the author to dictate what the operatives of the world is.

You allow the author to take part of their world and make it part of your own. You allow a little change.

In fiction you get final answers.

Any fiction writer that finds an audience that cares about and value their work has succeeded.
You see an authors world through their eyes, but also through your eyes.

Q – Where do you get inspiration for your characters?
A – God has better things to do than tell fiction writers what lies to tell.
Inspiration is not just things you have strong feelings about. (What people in the church sometimes call inspiration)

“All my characters come from me. I’m the only person that I know.”

When we try to base something on someone else, we are basing that view, we are putting our view, our fictional opinion of what makes

When we say “I know” we really mean I am as sure of this as I am of anything else. My experience has led me to this point, and nothing yet has contradicted it.

Even inspiration directly from God is constrained to the limits of our ability to understand at the time we received the revelation.

There is nothing you know that cannot be contradicted.

Everything has gone through the filters of your own understanding. We understand it up to a certain point.
You cannot raise children w/out bias. We are biased people.

Which beliefs are we going to have enough faith in to live our lives as if they were true?

In Mormon culture we are very easily smug that we have the answer.

Its easy to feel you have an answer when everyone around you agrees with you.

You can’t have answers if you haven’t asked a question. And if you haven’t asked the question, you are just an echo.

Your characters don’t and shouldn’t be your own voice. They should be their own voices.

“It’s your responsibility to sort out what you believe. It’s my responsibility to present my characters as accurately and honestly as I can.” ~OSC~
You need to have a meal ticket. Have a day job. Something that will make you money. No art is worth devoting your entire life to. Your life shouldn’t be just art.

To be a writer of fiction (a good writer):
-Keep your roots in the real word – keep in contact with non-literary people (words are great for this) Have as few literary friends as possible
-Educate yourself about anything and everything. Even if its something that you didn’t think you like. Get to know all about it.

If you want to be a fiction writer, don’t major in English. There will be too many games that you will need to unlearn.
I don’t intentionally leave loose ends. In real life, life is going to go on. Real life is messy.

Q – What is the most important idea to keep in mind?
A – Faith, hope, & clarity, the greatest being clarity.
It doesn’t matter what your story, is, if people can’t understand what’s going on.
They only know what you tell them.

The purpose of fiction:

Fiction is not there to be decoded.

The best reaction to fiction is the excitement, the caring, & loving the characters.

The experience you should have while reading a book is open-mouthed, loving the characters, excitement about the world.

Any analysis, or work that happens after that is extra, but not what fiction is for.

If a book has influenced you, you ask…

If this is true in the real world, how dies this make us change in our lives?
Q – Do you regret not reading a book or an author that you’ve heard of?
A – Not a one. There isn’t a book I’ve heard of that I wanted to read that I haven’t read. “I have a lot of money, I can buy any book I want. 1000s of books come into my house each year, and I read the ones I like.

***”The 13th tale” by Diane Settersfield. A book you might not have come across.
To Mormons, Samwise Gamgee is the true hero of LOTR. He’s the one that gets his hands dirty.

He’s the only one that really willingly gave up the ring. He refers to Frodo as the ring bearer à

He was the Frodo bearer. He was the one that was ready to come home and get on with life and have babies.

***Dave Gimmel’s “Rigante” books***

Q – (Something having to do with children reading about death and tragedy)
A – It’s great for a child to read something and ball for days because a character dies. It’s good for them to have these kinds of tragedies so when it really happens they know how to deal with it.
-Let’s rehearse all our tragedies in fiction first.

***Google Dave Wolverton for the history of Ficiton***

Fantasy is the last place in fiction where you can find greatness in characters.

Useful literature teaches you how to live a life worth living, and what’s worth dying for.

The fiction we choose to absorb not only reflects who we are, but defines who we are.

The culture of 1955 is not the ones prized by the elite.

If you are writing traditional fiction today you are the rebel.

The perceived wisdom of today is against what I believe (OSC)

You’re only given credit for being edgy and dangerous when you conform to it perfectly.

Be a rebel by conforming to the values of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

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