October 8, 2009

3 Questions for Steven Pressfield (part 1 of 3)

Through a fortuitous connection via Twitter, I was given the opportunity to ask author and historian Steven Pressfield three questions about the writing process. I am going to post one question/answer per week, starting today. Read below for his thoughts on navigating form and genre. I have been grappling with this issue a lot lately with regards to story ideas and how to decide on the manner in which they should be told. Apparently I am not alone, as Pressfield reassures me in his answer below.

MS: Considering that you work in multiple genres, do you ever have trouble deciding what form a particular idea/story should take?

SP: I ALWAYS have trouble deciding what form a particular/idea story should take. In many ways, that's the hardest part. What's the theme? What's the point of view? If it's first-person, who's the person? If it's not, what angle is the story being told from? How does it start? How does it end? What's the tone of voice? What's the "voice," period?

I have no method for answering these questions. I just trust my instincts. I try to "feel" the story and let it tell me how it wants to be told. I'm not sure why, but for me a lot of the time I use intermediate characters--like young Hardy in "Bagger Vance" or Xeo in "Gates of Fire." Someone who is relatable-to by the reader and can serve as a "way into the story." But not always.

I'm not sure this answer is helping too much. Bottom line: each story is different, for all of us, and each one demands a response all its own. I don't think it ever gets easier.

Well, my fellow writers, let's keep asking those questions until the story reveals its nature and form to us. Stay tuned for question #2 next week! Pressfield will discuss the nature of a writer's workday and strategies for time and project management. Best on your words until then ...

3 comments:

  1. Very nice. Way to reach out to a mentor.

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  2. Thanks for posting this. I have observed this also that the story does tell itself, and characters do things that our surprising and difficult for the author at the time.

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  3. Great post and great blog. I'm a devotee of The War of Art. I think Barbara Ehrenreich (BrightSided: how positive thinking is undermining America)would even like it. Look forward to next installments.

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