Thursday, August 19, 2010

The Wonderful Land of Uwritopia! (Why do you Write?)

OK. Here is a hypothetical for you. You live in the land Uwritopia. In this land, people with ideas are praised above all others. The storytellers in this land produce their work through a magical process.

The storyteller, once having arrived at their idea, muses on it while servants massage their feet and they sip cocktails with little umbrellas. Once the story is fully formed, the storyteller taps their temple twice, and crooks their little finger in a special (secret) gesture. Immediately that glorious conception - a masterwork - springs to life on the editor's desk - fully formed - and complete in every way. None of this scratching for years to get something that comes half way!

The storyteller's bank account is immediately credited with a generous percentage of the country's GDP (I'm thinking 1% should be fine) - creativity having been recognised as the most vital attribute of Uwritopian society.

Breathing a sigh of replete satisfaction, the writer settles back down to their banana lounge and signals the adoring serving staff for another cocktail.

Does this sound appealing? If it doesn't, then why not? Would you immediately book your ticket to Uwritopia, or would you shudder and grab hold of the nearest heavy object to prevent the smiling ambassadors of Uwritopia (who have been stalking you), getting their manicured clutches on you?

If, like me, you find this image somehow disturbing, what exactly is it that is missing from the picture? Is the experience of writing, the crafting, the striving - is that what you find yourself longing for when confronted by this scenario?

25 comments:

Brendan said...

Well I don't want that much cash - 0.001% GDP will do me fine and I am not really into being pampered by servants. People stopping to genuflect to me as I go by will do.

And to tell the truth I can't even imagine being able to craft an entire story after a moments thought. What happens if someone starts talking about pickles halfway through my muse? Would the story of Edward Picklehands really be worth my pay?

4thguy said...

I think it would be an interesting but short-lived experiment

Mike said...

Somehow the magic of Uwritopia reminds me of the mythical tech writers that my programming teams used to demand that I hire.

This may be the wrong forum to mention this, but when I ran programming teams, one of the common comments from my programmers was "Well, just hire a technical writer and let them do the documentation." Many of them were horrified when I walked through the process needed and ticked off the parts that a technical writer or editor could help with -- and the list of pieces that were left where they had to do the work. Oh, sure, a technical writer might help fill in some stuff, and we got professionals to clean up, but the bulk of the work -- getting the ideas out in some form, putting them in order, review, etc. were things that the programmers had to do themselves.

Oddly enough, most of the teams found that working through their ideas in writing, which is really what the documentation was all about, actually could be interesting and even enjoyable. Once we got past the fear of grammar, punctuation, and whatnot that too many English classes had instilled in most of them. The magic of Uwritopia seems to remove that, which doesn't sound attractive at all.

MataPam said...

I don't think I could hold the whole of a decent story in my mind all at once. And to communicate in written English, what you'd have to hold would be different than what you'd hold as a spoken story.

In theory, it could be done, all the edits and changes in Characters and new ideas incorporated. Skip all the wasteful putting down in electrons of the intermediate steps.

But if your mind is full of those words, is there room left for creativity?

MataPam said...

Oh, and the servants can leave off massaging my feet. I want the house dusted and vacuumed, the kitchen and bathrooms sparkling clean. Thank you. I could not possibly be productive with someone massaging my feet. Maybe later, after I've magicked the story to the publisher.

Chris said...

Imagine describing a typewriter to someone who wrote with a quill. Imagine how wondrous a modern wordprocessor would seem to a caveman from the age of typewriters.

Of course we could do it. Sure we lose a little of the romance with each iteration, but how romantic is reading from an iPad?

And if you could write a book instantaneously, could you read with similar ease?

Chris McMahon said...

Hi, Brendan. Look, it's all in the way you do the secret gesture with the little finger:). That would be the best Edward Picklehands story that would ever had existed!

Chris McMahon said...

Hi, 4th guy. Is that because the millions of authors would run out of servants? Or because Uwritopia would not afford 1000000% of GDP as authors royalties?

Chris McMahon said...

Hi, Mike. I devised this as a though experiment. I was amazed at how much I missed the process - the thought of not actually getting to do the writing and crafting was a real wrench. I guess I must be a real sicko - or at least a masochist!

Chris McMahon said...

Hi, Matapam. I think I could find plenty of uses for servants as well. I think what I described would actually be impossible for me - I really do rely on getting things down on paper, or in an electronic document - to help me bring the whole thing into being and tease out storyline and characters.

Chris McMahon said...

Hi, Chris. Interesting follow up there. If people could take the whole thing into their heads with the same ease my hypthothetical storyteller made up the story, then would it really have the same emotional impact? Or potential to make real changes in a person's psyche? There may really be something in the process of creation, and in the process of absorbing the story that has a function in itself. Interesting stuff.

Mike said...

Of course, the real problem comes with the less-then-perfect storytellers. They crook their little finger, the pill is prepared, and you gulp it down. Bam! The entire horrid thing is in your head, before you have a chance to throw it against the wall on the second page of the prologue from hell...

MataPam said...

Chris,
"There may really be something in the process of creation, and in the process of absorbing the story that has a function in itself."

Indeed. I think there has to be some sort of time function, to absorb the story as it is told, not as a whole, for it to be able to mimic Real Life. Without that time span, how could the tension build? How could the Character's gradual growth and change be paralleled by any growth and change in the reader?

The Author might see the story as a whole, as a mechanism to produce the desired changes in the reader. But I think the reader has to experience the story sequentially in order for it to evoke the sequence of emotions. All at once, all the sadness, happiness, anger, shocked realization, love, hatred, weariness . . . sounds dangerous to the adrenal glands. Or sanity.

Rowena Cory Daniells said...

Mike said:

Of course, the real problem comes with the less-then-perfect storytellers. They crook their little finger, the pill is prepared, and you gulp it down. Bam! The entire horrid thing is in your head, before you have a chance to throw it against the wall on the second page of the prologue from hell...

LOL. What a terrible scenario!

Rowena Cory Daniells said...

Chris,

Don't you know that the Story writes You.

It runs you ragged and pulls things from you in the middle of the night!

Chris McMahon said...

Hi, Mike. Ahhh! Sounds like a new form of torture! Like having that damn song stuck on your head but only ten times worse:)

Chris McMahon said...

Hi, Matapam. Yes, I agree. It's interesting how such a silly premise can lead to a true insight.

Chris McMahon said...

Hi, Rowena. You mean you would pass up all those cocktails? Even the ones with the little umbrellas?:)

Kate said...

Ugh. I'd be fighting off Uwritopia's agents. Possibly leaving them as pointed messages to the Uwritopia recruiters to remind them that I said "NO".

Now, the team of dedicated servants would be nice, but NOT to bring me drinks, and certainly not with the magic crook of the finger. Just to supply me with food and water, drag me to bed, and generally keep everything else working while I write. Oh, also to have very strange conversations while I'm working some idea through. "So, I need another corpse, and it's got to be really gruesome, but it's also got to involve Hello Kitty bondage gear." (Don't ask. Really. It works in context, is all I'm going to say).

Most of the "magic" of story happens while you're writing it - you can't make your readers feel the emotions if you're not feeling them when you write it. And if you're just mind-dumping, it's not going to be right.

Chris McMahon said...

Hi, Kate. It's quite true isn't it - we really need that process. There really cannot be any shortcuts in the crafting or anything to block the emotion. Me - I'm still thinking of new uses for my servants. List already extensive:)

MataPam said...

Keep the foot massages. Just, schedule them for non-writing times.

And I'm not into umbrella drinks, although the umbrellas are cool. Just stick it in a cola, por favor. The color scheme is perfect for a dress for this lady that just walked onto the scene. Poor thing. She won't be one of the survivors.

Chris McMahon said...

Hi, Matapam. One of the fun things about being a writer is what we get to do to characters:)

Synova said...

My reaction to that scenario is, "Cool beans! Then I can read it and find out what happens!"

Sarah A. Hoyt said...

sigh. Depends. Is it the story I arrive at after groaning, screaming and telling everyone I can't do it?

And I like swords in my drinks. Why? Because I pull it out, face the kid (or husband) across the table and say "en garde, canaille!" After which we have a rousing duel across the table till one of the swords breaks.

Who? Weird? US?

4thguy said...

The country will quickly run out of GDP. :P

***

It would also be interesting to see how writer's block would affect this wondrous realm. Heads exploding?