There's always a moment when you start to fall out of love, whether it's with a person or an idea or a cause, even if it's one you only narrate to yourself years after the event: a tiny thing, a wrong word, a false note, which means that things can never be quite the same again.
All stories have a curious and even dangerous power. They are manifestations of truth -- yours and mine. And truth is all at once the most wonderful yet terrifying thing in the world, which makes it nearly impossible to handle. It is such a great responsibility that it's best not to tell a story at all unless you know you can do it right. You must be very careful, or without knowing it you can change the world.
The opposite of a correct statement is an incorrect statement. The opposite of a profound truth is another profound truth (Niels Bohr). By this, he means that we require a larger reading of the human past, of our relations with each other, the universe and God, a retelling of our older tales to encompass many truths and to let us grow with change.
Truth for anyone is a very complex thing. For a writer, what you leave out says as much as those things you include. What lies beyond the margin of the text? The photographer frames the shot; writers frame their world. Mrs Winterson objected to what I had put in, but it seemed to me that what I had left out was the story’s silent twin. There are so many things that we can’t say, because they are too painful. We hope that the things we can say will soothe the rest, or appease it in some way. Stories are compensatory. The world is unfair, unjust, unknowable, out of control. When we tell a story we exercise control, but in such a way as to leave a gap, an opening. It is a version, but never the final one. And perhaps we hope that the silences will be heard by someone else, and the story can continue, can be retold. When we write we offer the silence as much as the story. Words are the part of silence that can be spoken. Mrs Winterson would have preferred it if I had been silent.Do you remember the story of Philomel who is raped and then has her tongue ripped out by the rapist so that she can never tell? I believe in fiction and the power of stories because that way we speak in tongues. We are not silenced. All of us, when in deep trauma, find we hesitate, we stammer; there are long pauses in our speech. The thing is stuck. We get our language back through the language of others. We can turn to the poem. We can open the book. Somebody has been there for us and deep-dived the words. I needed words because unhappy families are conspiracies of silence. The one who breaks the silence is never forgiven. He or she has to learn to forgive him or herself.
The telling and the hearing of a story is not a simple act. The one who tells must reach down into deeper layers of the self, reviving old feelings, reviewing the past. Whatever is retrieved is reworked into a new form, one that narrates events and gives the listener a path through these events that leads to some fragment of wisdom. The one who hears takes the story in, even to a place not visible or conscious to the mind, yet there. In this inner place a story from another life suffers a subtle change. As it enters the memory of the listener it is augmented by reflection, by other memories, and even the body hearing and responding in the moment of the telling. By such transmissions, consciousness is woven.
When she smiles, the lines in her face become epic narratives that trace the stories of generations that no book can replace.
Human stories are practically always about one thing, really, aren't they? Death. The inevitability of death. . .. . . (quoting an obituary) 'There is no such thing as a natural death. Nothing that ever happens to man is natural, since his presence calls the whole world into question. All men must die, but for every man his death is an accident, and even if he knows it he would sense to it an unjustifiable violation.' Well, you may agree with the words or not, but those are the key spring of The Lord Of The Rings
...and yet the idea is hard to accept, it's so hard to succeed in making something happen, even what's been decided on and planned out, not even the will of a god seems forceful enough to manage it, if our own will is made in its semblance. It may be, rather, that nothing is ever unmixed and the thirst for totality is never quenched, perhaps because it is a false yearning. Nothing is whole or of a single piece, everything is fractured and evenomed, veins of peace run through the body of war and hatred insinuates itself into love and compassion, there is truce amid the quagmire of bullets and a bullet amid the revelries, nothing can bear to be unique or prevail or be dominant and everything needs fissures and cracks, needs it negation at the same time as its existence. And nothing is known with certainty and everything is told figuratively.
If you write then you are reborn because by writing about the moment, you can relive it for a second time.
The stars are brilliant at this time of night and I wander these streets like a ritual I don’t dare to break for darling, the times are quite glorious.I left him by the water’s edge,still waving long after the ship was goneand if someone would have screamed my name I wouldn’t have heard for I’ve said goodbye so many times in my short life that farewells are a muscular task and I’ve taught them well. There’s a place by the side of the railway near the lake where I grew up and I used to go there to burry things and start anew. I used to go there to say goodbye. I was young and did not know many people but I had hidden things inside that I never dared to show and in silence I tried to kill them, one way or the other,leaving sin on my body scrubbing tears off with saltand I built my rituals in farewells. Endings I still cling to. So I go to the ocean to say goodbye.He left that morning, the last words still echoing in my headand though he said he’d come back one day I know a broken promise from a right onefor I have used them myself and there is no coming back.Minds like ours are can’t be tamed and the price for freedom is the price we pay.I turned away from the oceanas not to fall for its pleafor it used to seduce and consume meand there was this one nighta few years back and I was not yet accustomed to farewellsand just like now I stood waving long after the ship was gone.But I was younger then and easily fooledand the ocean was deep and dark and blueand I took my shoes off to let the water freeze my bones.I waded until I could no longer walk and it was too cold to swim but still I kept on walking at the bottom of the sea for I could not tell the difference between the ocean and the lack of someone I loved and I had not yet learned how the task of moving on is as necessary as survival.Then days passed by and I spent them with my work and now I’m writing letters I will never dare to send.But there is this one day every year or sowhen the burden gets too heavyand I collect my belongings I no longer needand make my way to the ocean to burn and drown and start anewand it is quite wonderful, setting fire to my chains and flames on written wordsand I stand there, starring deep into the heat until they’re all gone. Nothing left to hold me back.You kissed me that morning as if you’d never done it before and never would again and now I write another letter that I will never dare to send, collecting memories of loss like chains wrapped around my veins,and if you see a fire from the shore tonightit’s my chains going up in flames. The time of moon i quite glorious. We could have been so glorious.
Drama is based on the Mistake. I think someone is my friend when he really is my enemy, that I am free to marry a woman when in fact she is my mother, that this person is a chambermaid when it is a young nobleman in disguise, that this well-dressed young man is rich when he is really a penniless adventurer, or that if I do this such and such a result will follow when in fact it results in something very different. All good drama has two movements, first the making of the mistake, then the discovery that it was a mistake.
I think one is naturally impressed by anything having a beginning a middle and an ending when one is beginning writing and that it is a natural thing because when one is emerging from adolescence, which is really when one first begins writing one feels that one would not have been one emerging from adolescence if there had not been a beginning and a middle and an ending to anything.
It's my contention that each book creates its own structure and its own length. I've written three or four slim books. It may be that the next novel is a big one, but I don't know.
It is usually unbearably painful to read a book by an author who knows way less than you do, unless the book is a novel.
Watch movies. Read screenplays. Let them be your guide. […] Yes, McKee has been able to break down how the popular screenplay has worked. He has identified key qualities that many commercially successful screenplays share, he has codified a language that has been adopted by creative executives in both film and television. So there might be something of tangible value to be gained by interacting with his material, either in book form or at one of the seminars.But for someone who wants to be an artist, a creator, an architect of an original vision, the best book to read on screenwriting is no book on screenwriting. The best seminar is no seminar at all.To me, the writer wants to get as many outside voices OUT of his/her head as possible. Experts win by getting us to be dependent on their view of the world. They win when they get to frame the discussion, when they get to tell you there’s a right way and a wrong way to think about the game, whatever the game is. Because that makes you dependent on them. If they have the secret rules, then you need them if you want toget ahead.The truth is, you do
Narrative understanding is a large part of the ability to connect with, understand, and have compassion for all of us engaged in learning more about being human.
The Princess BrideS. Morgenstern'sClassic Tale of True Loveand High AdventureYou had to admire a guy who called his own new book a classic before it was published and anyone had a chance to read it.
Reading a novel after reading semiotic theory was like jogging empty-handed after jogging with hand weights. What exquisite guilt she felt, wickedly enjoying narrative! Madeleine felt safe with a nineteenth century novel. There were going to be people in it. Something was going to happen to them in a place resembling the world. Then too there were lots of weddings in Wharton and Austen. There were all kinds of irresistible gloomy men.
Henry Luce to his Time magazine writers: Tell the history of our time through the people who make it.
Stories are how we organize the chaos of experience into the order we require just a carry-on. Joan Gideon
The novel is the privileged vehicle of two ways of being: narrative and freedom: to be new (novel) in a speech open to all, and to be free in a speech that never concludes.
All plots tend to move deathward. This is the nature of plots. Political plots, terrorist plots, lovers’ plots, narrative plots, plots that are part of children’s games. We edge nearer death every time we plot. It is like a contract that all must sign, the plotters as well as those who are the targets of the plot.
We need to know not only what is done but what is purposed and said by those who shape the destines of states and realms. Horace Greeley
To read fiction means to play a game by which we give sense to the immensity of things that happened, are happening, or will happen in the actual world. By reading narrative, we escape the anxiety that attacks us when we try to say something true about the world. This is the consoling function of narrative — the reason people tell stories, and have told stories from the beginning of time.
Above all, readers want useful information, whether from a road sign or an investment guide. This motive is not completely absent even in readers of fiction, although few people read Madame Bovary for straightforward advice on how not to run a marriage. At a more abstract level, readers want a narrative that makes the world seem to make sense, and they sometimes choose stories that fit with their worldview rather than stories that fit the facts.
What other species now require of us is our attention. Otherwise, we are entering a narrative of disappearing intelligences.
The history of Science is not a mere record of isolated discoveries; it is a narrative of the conflict of two contending powers, the expansive force of the human intellect on one side, and the compression arising from traditionary faith and human interests on the other.
We think that history is created in the big things, in the big events, but history is also created in the small things that we do every day, in the personal choices we make— to think or not to think, to hold our tongues or to speak up, to act or not to act. Our actions have a ripple effect on those around us. Every time we conform or don't, we're shaping the world into our vision or someone else's vision. The universe isn't made up of atoms it's made up of stories, and these stories are shaped in college campuses and coffee houses around the country, not just in boardrooms and government buildings.
What just cause can be found for the encounter of so many nations, or what hatred inspired them all to take arms against each other? It is proof that the human race lives for its kings, for it is at the mad impulse of one mind a slaughter of nations takes place, and at the whim of a haughty ruler that which nature has taken ages to produce perishes in a moment.
But he had expressed to Mme. du Chatelet the hope that a way out might lie in applying philosophy to history, and endeavoring to trace, beneath the flux of political events, the history of the human mind. 'Only philosophers should write history,' he said. 'In all nations, history is disfigured by fable, till at last philosophy comes to enlighten man; and when it does finally arrive in the midst of darkness, it finds the human mind so blinded centuries of error, that it can hardly undeceive it; it finds ceremonies, facts and monuments, heaped up to prove lies.' 'History,' he concludes, 'is after all nothing but a pack of tricks which we play upon the dead;' we transform the past to suit our wishes for the future, and in the upshot 'history proves that anything can be proved by history.