follow a rookie writing his first novel

Frankenstein’s writer

No, I’m not talking about Mary Shelley; more about something her morally challenged creation might construct. Just imagine, what if you could take all the bits you admire in other writers and combine them in yourself.

For me, the content would read like a heady admixture of Paulo Coelho, Dion Fortune and Carlos Castaneda; although Dion would definitely not approve of Carlos – lots of inner conflict there, but hey, isn’t that supposed to be a good thing in a creative soul!

I think I would then need to add a bit of Tolkein for the sublime descriptions. Some Ford Maddox Ford for the characterisations. I’ll take a bit of Martin Amis crossed with Tom Sharpe for the acerbic wit. Then blend all this with Ian McEwan or possibly Aldous Huxley to add real class to the finished product. Anything else, hmm oh yeah, The prolific output of Enid Blyton. Yep, that’s about me done.

Now, I wonder how that would stack up? Unparalleled genius or hideous monster. Who would you include in your perfect author…


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6 thoughts on “Frankenstein’s writer

  1. I must apologize in advance because my comment is more than twice as long as your post. But that’s what happens when you ask challenging questions. I was thinking about posting this on my blog (and I may still), but I just put up another post.

    This question makes me think about those composite photographs where they take the nose of an actor with a really cute nose, plus another actor’s exceptionally sharp eyes, and so on, and the final result is hideous. 🙂 I think even a slight dash of acerbic wit would have made Tolkien unreadable.

    I thought about this a few days ago when I was watching the movie of Catch-22. I watch it every ten years or so, because I keep thinking it must be better than I remember. Really good novel, good director, good writer, incredible cast. All that and it’s just bad, pretty much from the first frame. Ten years later and it’s still as bad as it was the last time I saw it.

    As artists, we generally want more. More skills, more time, more money, etc., but none of those things makes better art. In fact, great art frequently comes from working within limitations.

    On the other hand, can we overcome weaknesses in our skills? Yes, definitely, if they are really weaknesses (and not just limitations) . For example, with my last story I was working on being more concise, and I think I did pretty well (not that you’d know it from this comment 🙂 ).

    The question is simply what will make the art better (which is different from starting with what will make the artist “better”).

    For example, would Prometheus be a better movie if it made sense? Yes, absolutely. Would Mulholland Dr. be a better movie if it made sense? No, definitely not.

    I don’t envy anybody for their skills, no matter how much those skills may exceed mine. I’ve said more than once that every sentence Henry James ever wrote was better than any sentence I’ve ever written. But if I suddenly had his ability to write magnificent sentences, I’d have to unlearn and relearn everything I’ve figured out over the last forty years about how to write without having that skill. At my age, the idea of having to spend forty years to get back to where I am now is not that appealing.

    • First of all, no need to apologize for a lengthy comment when it is as interesting as this one. I have another slant on the whole talent issue based on a (somewhat tenuous) example that is sport related. A while ago in England some mega rich individual took over a football club called Manchester city. He poured millions into buying the best players available; they did OK but not great. A few years on and they won the premiership; minus some of the really great players they had bought previously. The difference was, they had become a team, not just talented individuals.

      I guess the writing skills that we learn need to do the same – I can learn to write say with more wit, but it would have to find a blend with whatever else I had or it would look odd and have to go.

      Of course, you still need a talent as well as learned skill to be remarkable rather than merely polished. I have another example of exactly that. In my youth I took up snooker, even got coached. In a couple of months I was hitting in breaks of 24 or 25 -great! Six months later I was hitting in breaks of, well, 24 or 25 so I asked the coach what I was doing wrong. He looked thoughtful for a moment, then said that my stance was good. Good cue action. Really good at shot choice and tactics, but I was missing just one more thing – talent! Ah well, we can’t be good at everything…

      • Both good analogies (though of course parallels between sports and art are always going to be loose, because one has a clear definition of success and the other doesn’t).

        In baseball the Manchester example is called “addition by subtraction,” improving a team by removing specific (talented) players. You can see this in bands, too. When someone leaves a band, do the remaining members look for the “best” player on that instrument? Not if they’re smart — they look for someone who will fit (occasionally even a person who plays a different instrument).

        Your snooker example reminds me of my own music career. Same thing: we worked really hard over years and achieved competence. And I had a pretty good idea that “competent” was where we were going to stay.

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