Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Visit from an Authoress

Today, an authoress came to visit our Ulpan and tell us all about what it's like to be an authoress. The speech, frankly, was insanely dull. The women subscribes to a more mushy-gushy style of thought than I could ever tolerate, the speech was an hour and a half long, and to top it off, she was deliberately lowering her level of speech so as to adapt to our limited vocabularies.

She did, however, say one thing that caught my attention- that she likes to write because she can create a world in which she is like G-d, where she can decide who lives and who dies, who is happy and who miserable. That she likes it because the real world seems cruel, chaotic, and arbitrary, and writing lets her create a world that is governed by rhyme and reason and so forth.

My G-d, what a ghastly thought. I know how I govern the world of my stories. I kill characters because it seems the thing to do, because I want to see how they react, because it makes for a more interesting plot. Once I killed a fairly major character because I liked the effect of his blood on the snow.

And it's not like I don't like my characters. I can create a character with whom I identify strongly, bring him up from a child with endearing little character traits, put him through school, give him a family and a mode of thinking and children and aspirations and who knows what and kill him simply because I have thought of an interesting way to phrase the scene. Or bump off one of his children just because I think he would cope with it entertainingly. Or inflict and remove a wound as my whim takes me, depending on whether at that moment I think he'd be better with a scar. And even as I do it, I feel bad for the poor thing, really I do. I mean, he has one lousy life.

Miri says that it's just me. She says that she never kills or tortures a character just for the fun of it. But then, she adds that she will give them troubles just because it seems the thing to do, or because the story needs it, or because it's the thing to do.

I don't know. I think I would prefer for the world to run entirely by chance than for it to be run like a story, with G-d dropping tragedies down on us just because we suffer so darn interestingly.

Or maybe it is simply that- that we have to suffer because otherwise there is no story. Because you can't have a book or a life without conflict. And maybe better authors planning more ordered books have better motives than my arbitrary, capricious ones. But even so- of all the images of G-d that I have ever attempted to conceive, the one of Him sitting at a writing desk, notebook open before Him, is probably the one that appeals to me the least.


Miri said...

first of all, what I meant by killing characters bc it was the thing to do was not exactly how you put it. my stories grow of themselves, less orchestrated and more organic. if the story leads naturally to one of the characters dying, well then, that's where the story has taken itself. although I can't say I have much reliable experience with killing characters. I like to write abt stuff I know and thank G-d I don't know too much abt death yet. as to the theories on life and I'm sorry, I don't really have the heart to take this one woman's personal image of G-d and try to transpose it over my own. I just don't really see the point.

Richard said...

I can certainly understand the appeal of a sensical world as an escape, as long as we understand that its scope is purely fantastical.
Even in a fictional story, it is cruel to cause unpleasantness for a character for anything other than plot or moral development. It reflects poorly on you -- you are considered to "write what you know" whether it is true or not, so I advise against doing such.
In what way is this world not a story? I'm not saying that Gd is sitting at a desk writing down what happens next in Destiny's book; but all of history, past and future, is a big story. There is a narrative of what was, what will be, and what might be. Some of it has been written down -- for example, Torah/Tanach is a story and also happens to be the Word of Gd.

Halfnutcase said...

oh dear.

enjoy writing do you?

e-kvetcher said...

I don't think G-d has a notebook. He probably has a blog.

"I think I would prefer for the world to run entirely by chance than for it to be run like a story, with G-d dropping tragedies down on us just because we suffer so darn interestingly."

Isn't this kinda unorthodox?

mike said...

I seem to recall a recent article on the Onion about some author who was too much of a wimp to kill any characters. It was quite funny but I can't get the link right now.

Shana said...

Maybe this is presumptious of me, but what she says makes sense.

In a world without control, in chaos, what is a better way to deal than to create worlds we can control. I mean, we try to in our own personal lives as well as in our fantasy lives, why not put all those things down into fiction.

Tobie said...

Miri- stories do have their own progression, but I have some input in the plot. I mean, I can drop things on my characters sometimes to which they react as they choose

Richard- Well, but why? I mean, maybe it's morbid, but I think that people are fascinating when they are suffering- it sort of boils them down to what they are. I write to explore what people are, so why should I shy away from exploring people who are suffering? And the world may be a story, but that's from the other end of history- a story that unfolds and later is described rather than one that is arbitrarily planned.

HNC- I used to be a lot more into it. Now I guess I've moved on to blogging ;)

E-Kvetcher- WoW! Somebody should totally make a blog for G-d. Horribly irreverent, but it would be so funny.

And I didn't say that I chose to believe in either of those two options. Just that I find the latter more appalling.

Mike- Heh.

Shana- I'm not saying I don't agree psychologically. I'm just saying I'm not sure that I like the theological metaphor.

Anonymous said...

Is Rambam any better? In his view, the amount of divine providence you recieve is based on your level of intellectual development. i.e. If you are thick, you are essentially just part of nature and God may have no guiding hand in your life whatsoever (Guide III:18, p. 475 in Pines). Not particularly appealing either...


Richard said...

OK, but there's a world of difference between exploring human suffering and killing someone to watch the blood spatter.

Miri said...

is the Rambam talking abt intellectual ability or development? two different things. one can be extremely obtuse, but still see the hand of G-d in everything in his ever-day life...I thought the theory was the more you see G-d in your life, the more involved He is in your life.

Richard said...

I'm pretty sure Rambam said that the smarter, i.e. more intelligent/learned, people have a larger share in olam habaa. Tobie should remember that from Shavuot.

Tobie said...

Well, Rambam was a little intellectually snobbish, so that he associated holiness and piety exclusively with intelligence. But you can re-apply the idea removing his notion of what holiness is.

And I didn't kill him to watch the blood splatter in an icky sadistic way. I was really very fond of him. Just that, in the writing of the story, it was an interesting effect to describe and to try to depict in a sufficiently chilling but not overdone and annoying way. I'm not messed-up loony who enjoys the suffering of my characters or anything; I'm just willing to kill them for any artistic whim that strikes me. Not much better, perhaps, but there you go.

Richard said...

when did you last water your trees?