Thursday, March 23, 2006

Author Survey

One thing I advocate is helping out students who are interested in writing whenever possible. The more openly we communicate with the next generation of writers, the better off the profession will be in the future. It's the best form of paying it forward.

A few days ago Jess asked me in comments if I'd answer a survey for a university project, and I liked her questions about communicating through fiction so much I asked her if she'd let me post them here and tempt some other published authors to respond:

1. Writing is often considered a solitary profession. Do you agree with that statement? How does that notion reconcile itself with the (somewhat ironic) fact that what you write is intended for an audience?

2. In what ways do you feel you are a communicator through your work? Do you try to communicate what you perceive as truth (for your characters, or universal)? If so, how?

3. How mindful are you of your audience? If you build a world with a particular flavor to it, ie Italian, are you careful not to be offensive to those who would notice the influence? Or, since fiction is often marketed to a particular audience or in a particular way, does the opposite hold true, wherein you feel free to use jargon and ideas from a particular culture in your work because it should be thus understood?

4. Similar to question two: How important is the idea of a fiction writer as a real communicator, or do you feel that with fiction writing, the author is more likely merely a story-teller out to entertain? What is your perception of fiction and writing in general as a communicative tool?

5. Do you have anything else to add, that I may not have covered in a question, about the idea of communicating through fiction?

Authors, if you'd also like to answer these, please send your responses (and note one of your published titles in the e-mail so she can cite it) to Jess at cearabrede@gmail.com. She needs them by Tuesday, March 28th to make her assignment deadline. Also, feel free to post your answers here in comments if you'd like to share them with us.

7 comments:

  1. Anonymous8:08 AM

    Thank you, PBW, and thank you in advance to anyone who responds. (In case the questions don't give it away, the project is for a Communicating Across Cultures course.)

    Jess

    ReplyDelete
  2. 1. Writing is often considered a solitary profession. Do you agree with that statement? How does that notion reconcile itself with the (somewhat ironic) fact that what you write is intended for an audience?

    It is very solitary. As for writing for an audience, the first draft is never for anyone but the writer. What he/she does after that is for everyone else.


    2. In what ways do you feel you are a communicator through your work?

    I just try to tell the best story I can.


    3. How mindful are you of your audience? If you build a world with a particular flavor to it, ie Italian, are you careful not to be offensive to those who would notice the influence? Or, since fiction is often marketed to a particular audience or in a particular way, does the opposite hold true, wherein you feel free to use jargon and ideas from a particular culture in your work because it should be thus understood?

    I'm alway mindful of everyone, but that doesn't mean my character will be like that. I try to keep racial issues out of my work, and just tell a story.

    4. Similar to question two: How important is the idea of a fiction writer as a real communicator, or do you feel that with fiction writing, the author is more likely merely a story-teller out to entertain? What is your perception of fiction and writing in general as a communicative tool?

    Entertain only.
    Fction writing should be to entertain only.

    5. Do you have anything else to add, that I may not have covered in a question, about the idea of communicating through fiction?

    nope.

    ReplyDelete
  3. 1. Writing is often considered a solitary profession. Do you agree with that statement? How does that notion reconcile itself with the (somewhat ironic) fact that what you write is intended for an audience?

    I'm coming from this from a very different perspective than many other writers. I have a male co-writer who is one of the leading networkers in Northern Virginia. We both attended a workshop given by two freelancers--and their work was most definitely not solitary. They made contacts with experts to have a book full of references they could call on for articles. In fact, to write an article for a health magazine, they stated that you must have an expert quoted in the article. As co-writer and I watched the crowd, we knew that most of the people in the room would never come out of their shells to even make that kind of contact that would help them be successful. Even for fiction, being able to relate to other people is essential--from finding a expert for required research to being able to sit at a table, smile at hundreds of people, and sign autographs ... and make it a memorable experience for each and every fan so that they will buy your next book. It isn't just about writing.

    2. In what ways do you feel you are a communicator through your work? Do you try to communicate what you perceive as truth (for your characters, or universal)? If so, how?

    I'm not sure I understand this question. I don't think about truths when I write. I just write to entertain.

    3. How mindful are you of your audience? If you build a world with a particular flavor to it, ie Italian, are you careful not to be offensive to those who would notice the influence? Or, since fiction is often marketed to a particular audience or in a particular way, does the opposite hold true, wherein you feel free to use jargon and ideas from a particular culture in your work because it should be thus understood?

    Our target audience is women readers who want to read action-adventure thriller with heroines getting the action. Surprisingly, this has had a major impact on everything about the book, from structure to how to the story plays out to word choices. For example, in a typical male-oriented thriller, the hero would run into fix the problem. In one for women, trouble is more likely to find her. Simple things like word choices can make a big difference as well. A guy would want to know that a particular gun is a Colt Revolver, but to a woman reader, that doesn't mean anything to her. It's a gun, so that's what we called it.

    4. Similar to question two: How important is the idea of a fiction writer as a real communicator, or do you feel that with fiction writing, the author is more likely merely a story-teller out to entertain? What is your perception of fiction and writing in general as a communicative tool?

    Personally, as a reader, I'm turned off when I get books that try to deliver a "message" of some kind or require me to really think in order to enjoy the book. I just want to read and enjoy the story, and that's how I write as well.

    5. Do you have anything else to add, that I may not have covered in a question, about the idea of communicating through fiction?

    Just one interesting note: Most writers seem to focus on the writing, but verbal skills are just as important because all it works together to improve the writing itself. Besides, how can you pitch your book to an agent if your verbal skills are lacking? It really is an essential skill to learn.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Boy am I glad I wrote this before I read the other responses. ;) As usual, I'm the odd man out. lol

    1. Writing is often considered a solitary profession. Do you agree with that statement? How does that notion reconcile itself with the (somewhat ironic) fact that what you write is intended for an audience?

    Yes, I agree. I have to chuckle at the reconcile part because I wonder if it ever really does. It’s an odd feeling to know that thousands of people are going to read every word you type. The intimate intentionally becomes public. It’s a strange sensation.

    2. In what ways do you feel you are a communicator through your work? Do you try to communicate what you perceive as truth (for your characters, or universal)? If so, how?

    I try to tell the truth of the matter at hand, but it’s all so subjective. One man’s truth is another man’s lie, and I try to keep that in mind, giving each of my characters different opinions, insights, prejudices and blind spots as I dissect whatever issue I’ve set out to explore. I prefer to attack it from every direction I possibly can – What is this? How does it work? What happens when it doesn’t? What if it breaks? What if it’s wrong? When does it apply, or not? – and I hope this methodology gives a greater dimension to the “truth” of the matter. My perceptions of that truth are immaterial, it’s what the readers take from the story that matters. I try to give as unbiased a viewpoint as I can. I don’t always succeed.

    3. How mindful are you of your audience? If you build a world with a particular flavor to it, ie Italian, are you careful not to be offensive to those who would notice the influence? Or, since fiction is often marketed to a particular audience or in a particular way, does the opposite hold true, wherein you feel free to use jargon and ideas from a particular culture in your work because it should be thus understood?

    I don’t care who I offend. It’s part of my job as a writer to be willing, and able, to offend someone should the story demand it. I use whatever jargon, conventions, norms, structures, themes and archetypes are available to tell the story. That’s all that matters to me – the integrity of the story. My audience spans all ages, cultures, socioeconomic, racial and gender backgrounds (and surely other criteria I can’t imagine). To try to write to please one segment merely limits the potential depth and power of the work.

    4. Similar to question two: How important is the idea of a fiction writer as a real communicator, or do you feel that with fiction writing, the author is more likely merely a story-teller out to entertain? What is your perception of fiction and writing in general as a communicative tool?

    For me, it’s both entertainment and communication. There’s nothing wrong with either extreme, but I prefer to stay closer to the middle, a page-turner with depth, I guess. Someone once told me I write literary, I just happen to be shelved in genre. I’m not sure if it’s true, but I’m very conscious of what the story’s trying to say while keeping it clipping along at a breakneck pace.

    Words are powerful things, and the pen truly is mightier than the sword. Fiction holds a prominent place in promoting societal change and exposing our own failures and fallacies. Sometimes the best way to illustrate a problem, concept, or dichotomy is through fiction because, unlike a treatise or rhetoric, it’s readily accessible to the common person. A story will often stay with you longer than a speech or something you saw on the news.

    5. Do you have anything else to add, that I may not have covered in a question, about the idea of communicating through fiction?

    No, not at this time. :)

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  5. cherylp5:44 PM

    Hi, Sheila:

    Sorry to hijack this topic, but I'm having a problem with getting to the current post on your page. Everytime I use my shortcut, or anyone else's shortcut, it takes me to the Feb 28 entry. When I type in pbackwriter.blogspot.com, it also takes me to the Feb 28 entry.

    Since tambo linked to your current post, I used her link to get here.

    Got any ideas what the problem might be?

    ReplyDelete
  6. CherylP wrote: Got any ideas what the problem might be?

    Not sure. I went and republished the blog, just in case it was something with Blogger. It might be related to cookies or browser glitches, do you still get the 2/28 entry after you refresh the page?

    ReplyDelete
  7. cherylp1:15 AM

    Okay, color me stupid. When I first got to your blog, it was still the Feb 28 entry, but I hit refresh as you suggested, and the current date came up. Thanks!

    ReplyDelete