Author Intent Revisited

So, I’ve already written an article on how author intent is irrelevant. However, I might have to backtrack on my statement. It wasn’t exactly recently that J. K. Rowling said in an interview that Ron and Hermione would never have been together in real life. This didn’t mean much for me as I’m not an uberfan, but as with the last time that Rowling dropped a little secret about one of her characters that isn’t in the novels themselves, it got a huge fan reaction.

I feel like none of these bits of trivia (yes, “trivia” like “trivial”) should matter. Nothing that she says changes anything that happens in the novels. Dumbledore being gay does not change the story. The fact that she felt the Ron and Hermione relationship was not realistic does not change what happens. It still happens. And yet… BOOM!

There are comments upon comments of readers either in favor or against what she said. Some were delighted, because it confirmed for them something that they believed all along. However, what has piqued most of my interest were the comments stating that Rowling had “ruined” or “cast[ed] a negative light on the novels” with her statement. I take this to mean that either the reader is unable to enjoy the novels in the same way with this knowledge. If author intent were completely irrelevant, this wouldn’t be.

Still, I believe that with her statements, Rowling does in fact taint her work. She wrote these novels, encoding the message in the words where it was then received by the reader. The message was received and interpreted, and it cannot be taken back. By saying these things, she is in fact stealing meaning from the reader, which I feel is a betrayal of the author/reader relationship.

The reader trusts the author to be in absolute control of the story. I always say, “In order to write with authority, the author must be the god of their own world.” You, the author, are god, and a true god makes no mistakes. To take that back? Now, she is a person. Fallible. The veil is gone.

Now, sometimes, I like trivia. I find it interesting to see the contrast between what I had planned and what the final result was. I am the master of last minute decisions. I don’t think a single novel turned out how I originally planned it. And sometimes, you want to share this information with your readers. “You know, [So-and-so] was never supposed to survive past chapter five, but [he/she] grew on me.” And so on and so forth.

What is the difference? I had to sit and think on it a while, because it felt hypocritical. The difference is that the trivia that I would deem harmless and interesting are where I felt my plans were wrong, and I’m happy with the way that they went instead. What I presented to my reader is the best story that I could come up with. I believe in it. So-and-so lived past chapter five, because it was better. I’m not saying, I should have gone with my original intention, because this is unrealistic that they should have survived.

I have to hand it to Rowling. Letting out these little controversial bits of trivia every so often is business genius. One, it keeps people talking about the novels. Two, it requires very little work. As an author, I can’t help but admire her for it. As a normal person and reader, I can’t help but be really annoyed by it.

The original blog on author intent:


Novels of Years Past

What were your other books about? Are you planning on releasing them?

Day, Night, and Shadow/The Doublestar Planet series
My other novels (the finished ones) were a sci-fi/fantasy hybrid about this world that had telepaths, telepathic beings with white gems on their foreheads, pixies, beings made of pure magic, warriors, technologically advanced human soldiers, townsfolk, normal humans, and renegades, human thieves who frequently hunt telepaths for their gems. My main character, Astellay, was a telepath who finds this ancient relic in her attic with information about her ancestors coming to their planet. Her mother falls ill, and she uses the relic to find another relic that is said to be able to heal anyone.

I wrote it when I was a freshman in high school, and back then, I didn’t believe in a lot of description, even less so than I do now. I felt that the way the reader could imagine it was better than I could describe it. So, the prose is terrible, but it does have its merits. I’ve always been really good at pacing and flow, characterization, and dialogue. So, of course, that’s what’s good in the novel.

I don’t know if I plan on releasing it. If I do, I would definitely rewrite it first. I don’t know. The thing is that I have plundered a lot from the original novel for things for Wingéd, so I don’t know if I would feel like I was just telling a worse version of Wingéd.

Let’s see, what did I plunder? It was mostly characters, I think, because I love my characters, and I wanted to use them again. Granted, they were all supposed to die really quickly; I wasn’t expecting to continue to use them past a couple of chapters, so that’s just a bad on my part. In the original novel, I had a group going on this quest with Astellay. Two of them were Naddan, a telepath, and Nekali, a warrior. These characters morphed (kind of purposely, kind of not) into the characters of Daisuke and Isis. In later novels in the series, there was also the character of Nessa, who goes a little insane. (Wow, did NOT notice that every character I took has a name beginning with ‘N’ until just now.) I have used the insane character a couple of times (once in fanfiction), because crazy people are fun to write for, but her most recent iteration is Rin. You’ll meet her in Wingless.

If I do end up revisiting this particular world I made, there would have to be some serious overhauls. It wouldn’t follow the same model. Actually, I think I did try to rewrite it after Wingéd, but before Foiche Dé with disastrous results.

The Seven
I have tried to write a few other novels, but none of them really felt right. I think I managed three chapters of The Seven before I put it down. This was after the fourth DNS novel, but before Wingéd. You might call it Wingéd Lite. As with everything I do, I had a complete world. The premise was that one day God either wanted to destroy mankind or just abandoned them (there were a couple of drafts), and man was saved by the angels. The angels gave man powers to look after itself in the super harsh environment that they suddenly found themselves in. The upper class, Mages, ruled over the Serfs, humans without powers. The main character, Rhiannon, was responsible for bringing seven children, supposedly angels born in mage form to save the world again by taking away their powers and restoring the balance. That’s about as far as I got. I had all of their names and powers. It was fun for a while, but it just wasn’t right.

As you can see, this was when I just started dipping my toes into theology and mythology. I just wasn’t seasoned yet.

Telesapiens/Who Once Could See
The story of the Telesapiens was somewhat of an attempt to rewrite DNS. I’d been writing about a certain kind of telepath, but I wanted to completely redefine what my readers thought about telepaths. Thus, the telesapien was born. Telesapiens were telepathic entities who only lived for about ten years. They developed telepathy and the ability to teleport in order to make up for their short lifespans. They were supposed to have been at war with humans, but they now had a very tentative peace. A human ends up getting killed by a group of telesapiens who are defending one of their own, and they start demanding justice. The main character was Aranee, and she was an apprentice of an old priestess, who shows her the way nature. She ends up volunteering to be sacrificed instead in order to stop the bloodshed. So, you can see how this sort of became the basis of the Wingéd origin myth.

Suck for a Buck
Finally, there’s my story called “Suck for a Buck”. This started out as a short story for my creative writing class. Now, my professor had made a huge deal over this short story. It was very Juno-esque before Juno ever came out. It was in present tense second person narration, something that I’ve never done before, and it was “literary”, because my professor forbade anything sci-fi/fantasy. It was about a sixteen year old girl living at home with her parents, older sister, and her sister’s husband. Her sister is pregnant, and it’s just a short about how she deals with being ignored by her family. Anyway, it was funny, and my professor said that I excelled at humor so much, I decided to try and make a novel out of it. The novel was back when her sister and her husband were getting married and everything. The main character has a crush on her best friend, who is in love with someone else who becomes her best friend. I stopped writing it because… well, it didn’t interest me. I liked it, but it’s not me.

However, the unrequited love story does show up in Dragon Wingéd.

So, I hope that you enjoyed that. It was fun wandering down novels of years past.

My Favorite Harsh But Eye-Opening Writing Tips

So, a while ago, I stumbled upon this article on Facebook. It’s called “21 Harsh But Eye-Opening Writing Tips From Great Authors” by Cody Delistraty. Of course, you know I was all over that like a hobo on a ham sandwich. So, just like my favorite Pixar rules, these were my favorites. Be sure to visit the link to the original article at the bottom to read all 21 quotes.

3. If you have any young friends who aspire to become writers, the second greatest favor you can do them is to present them with copies of The Elements of Style. The first greatest, of course, is to shoot them now, while they’re happy. – Dorothy Parker

When I see this quote, it’s one of those situations where it’s funny because it’s true. Not that you want to shoot them, but every aspiring writer thinks that his/her writing is the shit. You go out into the world with your first short story and you give it out to all of your family members. And they all tell you, “It’s great.” “Aren’t you talented?” they say. “Looks like we have an author in the family.” They’re family and friends, and they love you. They’re doing you a huge disservice, because they’re setting you up for the biggest fall of your life.

It took me four years to recover from mine.

Once you give your manuscript to someone who knows a little about literature, looks at it every day, that’s it. Your little hobby becomes work. And no matter what you do, there’s going to be something to work on. It’s not going to be perfect, and it’s going to be crushing. Rising back up from that is hard. Most people never recover from the shattering of that illusion.

I don’t actually recommend shooting someone while they’re happy. However, if you come across a young friend who wants your opinion on his/her work, I recommend being honest, but uplifting. My friend, Lindsey, says she likes to use the three up and one down model. That’s three positives for every negative. Let them know early that this is work and not everything they touch is gold; however, make it fun for them. Make it about the journey, learning and improvement.

7. Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout with some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand. — George Orwell

This is definitely one of the best answers to “why do you write” that I have ever heard. Every time I write a novel, when it’s done, I look down at it and think to myself, “Holy shit, is that my still beating heart on the page there? Why is it bleeding like that?!” And every time someone reads it, it gets even worse. Every person gets to sit there and poke and prod at it with their little knife fingers, each one of them commenting on whether its color and texture is good enough or if its beat is strong or steady enough. (Or worse, they look down and say, “Oh, that’s nice. No, I don’t want to look at it.” Indifference kills people!)

When I’m done, I realize that I seem to have grown another heart, and I have to tear it out again. Why would I do this to myself over and over? Because I have to. I have to do it to live. I cannot be happy unless I’m writing. That’s the only reason to write.

12. If writing seems hard, it’s because it is hard. It’s one of the hardest things people do. – William Zinsser

This one’s on the house. See #7.

13. Here is a lesson in creative writing. First rule: Do not use semicolons. They are transvestite hermaphrodites representing absolutely nothing. All they do is show you’ve been to college. – Kurt Vonnegut

This just made me laugh. This is an example of a highly amusing style preference. Sometimes, I use semicolons, usually in dialogue when people are speaking through and combine their sentences. It doesn’t make sense to have a full stop flow-wise. Most of the time though, it’s just as good without as it is with. Hehe, “hermaphrodites”.

17. Substitute ‘damn’ every time you’re inclined to write ‘very;’ your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be. – Mark Twain

Also, see this quote. From Dead Poets Society. It’s not in the list, but I felt it relevant.

“So avoid using the word ‘very’ because it’s lazy. A man is not very tired, he is exhausted. Don’t use very sad, use morose. Language was invented for one reason, boys – to woo women – and, in that endeavor, laziness will not do. It also won’t do in your essays.”
― N.H. Kleinbaum, Dead Poets Society

When I first read this piece of advice, I was worried. Actually, every time I read a piece of writing advice, I sit there and worry whether or not I do whatever it is they’re talking about. Luckily, I found that I don’t use “very” often. And when I do, it’s in dialogue. I think my characters are allowed to say “very”. (My poison is the word “just” instead.)

But if you have a problem with it, and have a hard time catching yourself, there’s a way to go into Word’s autocorrect and add in your own. I learned this from a friend (not a touch typist) whose brother programmed the autocorrect to write “dumb-ass” every time she wrote the word “the”. When she looked up after typing a few paragraphs, she saw about fifteen occurrences of “dumb-ass” all over her paper. So, every time you write “very”, it will automatically switch to “damn” before your… uhm… very eyes.

21. Don’t take anyone’s writing advice too seriously. – Lev Grossman

Yes, this. Oh, I should elaborate. There are many ways to interpret this, and I think that’s why I like it. It could mean “follow your heart” or “you’re never going to please everyone” or “there’s no right way to write”. I also like it, because it makes it okay to disagree with someone else’s opinion. There are a lot of times where I traverse the blogosphere and read these “how to write” blogs, and they just make me sad. I often disagree with what they’re saying, and this makes that okay. There’s no single way to write.

– “21 Harsh But Eye-Opening Writing Tips From Great Authors” by Cody Delistraty