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Kaz
March 8th, 2004, 07:49 AM
Through the years I have come to the conclusion that, although I do enjoy creating characters and weaving a story around them, it is in the analysis and critique of other's writings that I have a greater interest. Or at least I seem to be better at it.

Now, does this form of writing fall outside the category of art and is it less creative than works of fiction created by an individual?

Though I do not profess that my analysis of other people's writing is necessarily correct, I do like to think that in a way it would lead others to view something in a new way - challenge the norm/status quo if you will. Is that not something that art sets out to do as well?

I always try to communicate my thoughts in a way that would be easily understood by the audience (though I must admit I miserably fail at this sometimes) and I attempt to be original in my thoughts, or at least the way I communicate them - again I sometimes miserably fail (as those who have read any of my 'ramblings' would attest).

In the penning of my arguments or theories on other's thoughts and works I like to believe that a certain amount of creativity marks my words. And I hope that others appreciate the effort put into them - just as anyone who has ever writen a great work of fiction does too.

Now, I am not so arrogant to assume that the title 'artist' would ever be used to describe me or my musings. But I would like to know what it is that sets apart a work of fiction from a work of analysis of critique? Are the two mutually exclusive or do they really (as I'd like to believe) exist in a type of symbiotic nature?

What typifies art or the creativity present in it?

kahnovitch
March 8th, 2004, 08:41 AM
I think writing as a whole is an artform. Whether it's a novel, a poem, a critique or even a CV or letter.
The way we choose the words and build the sentences, makes all the difference to the clarity of the thoughts we are trying to convey.
It's as much of a statement of us, as individuals, as the clothes we choose to wear or the music or films we like.
Creativity is after all about personal self-expression, and what could be more personally self-expressive than your own thoughts written down for all to see?
Forums like this are a prime example.

ironchef texmex
March 8th, 2004, 10:37 AM
There are two types of writing - lyrical and narrative. Lyrical writing is the expression of a thought or idea through inventive language. Narrative is a simple statement of factual detail.

Kan is right; the two are usually inseperable. Even the most vapid poetry usually has some sort of factual backbone and even the driest narratives usually require at least a smidgeon of creative thought.

But there are extremes. I'm sure if you go to enough coffee house poetry readings (like, maybe..... one) you'll find someone who has absolutely nothing in reality with which to connect his fancy words. As for the opposite extreme. Think police reports. I do about ten of these a week. They're basically form letters where the individual details get inserted in the appropriate place. I suppose I could try adding a little lyricism.

The complainant had to lean against the dais for support. Fermented fluid poured freely from his wrinkled brow. When he finally spoke again it was in a voice that was all breath, "So I told that @#$! to get me a beer. She walks back in from the kitchen and cracks a Bud Lite over my head." Officers found the harpy in question still holding the fractured bottle top in her shaking hand.

Orrrrrr.... maybe not.

But I would agree that your critiques are probably every bit as creative as the material that they cover. Things like that are good practice for a writer, too.

JRMurdock
March 8th, 2004, 12:26 PM
Analysis and Critique are both very difficult and if not well done, can come across as pompus, abrasive, demeaning, or just plain rude. Even when well worded they can be taken as an attack on a person's precious prose. my.... precious. Oops, sorry about that.

You must act like a mirror that tell the truth about a work. Many [writers] are so close to their work, they fail to notice the minor typos, the character flaws (or lack of them), the plot slips, the rambling scenes (gosh, do I have any of those...hmmm). That is where you art truly shine as you must enlarge those instances and make them blaringly obvious to the author so he/she may make corrections, if needed, and tighten up a work.

Critiquing and Analysis are very difficult. I've done both (some even in this forum) and I do hope I do not rub off sa a know-it-all or a jack-ass. I'm also learning here and in helping others, I'm learning more. It's a way for me to fine tune my craft as well.

I don't recall who said it, but it was in this board "You sound so sage when giving advice, if only you could follow your own." So true.

Dawnstorm
March 8th, 2004, 07:41 PM
Kaz said:
But I would like to know what it is that sets apart a work of fiction from a work of analysis of critique? Are the two mutually exclusive or do they really (as I'd like to believe) exist in a type of symbiotic nature?

Ooh, what a difficult question! Ok, bear with me (and I won't blame you if you don't):

Somebody writes a work of fiction. When he's done, what does he have? A sterile, dead thing. A book. A few pages soiled with ink.

To transform that book into a work of art, you need a reader. Somebody who decodes the dead and sterile thing and guesses at the work of fiction that is there somewhere "behind" the thing.

(Note: The author may well be his own reader.)

So:

1. A work of fiction does not exist unless it is in the process of being written or being read.

It follows that the act of reading itself is a creative process. That the work of fiction created by the stimulus of the "book" inside a readers head is similar to the work of fiction that was written from some other stimulus can be assumed, because both author and reader share a set of rules/expectations: language, social norms etc.

However, the work of fiction that the author has written is never the same work of fiction the reader reads. Not even if the reader is the author himself. And no reader will read the same work of fiction twice (the sheer fact that he's read the work of fiction before, changes the current reading).

So:

2. A work of fiction has to be constantly reconstructed through the creative process of reading. However, such a reconstruction will always only produce variants.

Of course, the creativity involved in writing is different from the creativity involved in reading.

When writing a work of fiction your stimulus to create is a different one from reading. Since there is no single object ("the book") to focus your attention upon, the stimulus to create has a more diffuse base, and it takes a lot more conscious effort to form the work.

Also, the author needs to be a reader at the same time as he's writing. He needs to make decisions what words are appropriate to what he wants to convey. (Actually, sometimes when I write I try out a word I like for its sound, or for some association, obscure even for me, and then I see what that might mean in the context. This reading does change my perception of the thing I'm in the process of writing).

The reader on the other hand may sometimes find himself in the role of "writer" (the I-would-have-done-this-differently-effect).

If I may employ a metaphor:

A writer kills the work of fiction by writing it down, leaving a corpse of paper and ink. The reader, on the other hand, resurrects it for a while. (A bad reader will create a Zombie. A good reader might bring forth a more lively being than even the author while writing.)

3. Writing and reading involve different kinds of creativity. However, some of the creativity required for reading will spill over into writing, and vice versa.

Now, what does a critic do?

(1) Read the work of fiction. (2) Reflect upon his reading of the work of fiction. (3) Using the results of those reflections to guess at the original process of writing to be attributed to the author. (4) Evaluating the "appropriateness" of the writing by (4a) contrasting them with alternatives.

(1) and (3) require a lot of creativity. (2) and (4) require more of the analytic capacity of the mind. However, (4) relies heavily on (4a) which, again, is a very creative process (unless the alternatives are arrived at by "rules of writing"; e.g. "this is a bad paragraph, because it contains 13 adjectives, whereas the optimal amount of adjectives in a paragraph of this length is 7.3 adjectives.")

So:

4. Lots of creativity is needed in the process of analyzing and criticizing a work of fiction.

Whether or not you see criticism as form of art depends on what you emphazise in criticism as well as on your definition of art. My take on this question: I don't really care. A good reader and critic is very valuable to a writer, even if the writer ends up disagreeing with the critic.

===

Phew, if you've read that post all the way to the end you're very brave. Maus, if you're afraid to come over as a know-it-all or jack-ass read this post and feel better. You're not the worst. :D

(Actually, you've always come over as a good reader & critic, to me.)

milamber_reborn
March 8th, 2004, 10:26 PM
I love critiquing other people's work. In the last year I've edited word-for-word about 80 short stories. Even got myself named as an Editor of a Writers Group.

Since I want a career in the industry, I'm working just as hard on becoming a good editor as I am at becoming a good writer.

kahnovitch
March 9th, 2004, 05:04 AM
Originally posted by Dawnstorm

A writer kills the work of fiction by writing it down, leaving a corpse of paper and ink.

That is a strange metaphor.
The same could be said about anything on any storage medium (which is all paper essentially is).
I don't see a written work as dead or alive, but suspended in time until someone reads it, at which point it comes to life the same as music on a cd or films on tape/dvd etc.

Dawnstorm
March 9th, 2004, 12:31 PM
Originally posted by kahnovitch
That is a strange metaphor.
The same could be said about anything on any storage medium (which is all paper essentially is).

You're right. I would, indeed, say the same about anything on any storage medium.


Originally posted by kahnovitch
I don't see a written work as dead or alive, but suspended in time until someone reads it, at which point it comes to life the same as music on a cd or films on tape/dvd etc.

I don't see a written work as suspended in time, perhaps, because I tend to emphasize the difference between the "written work" in the author's mind during writing and the "written work" in the reader's mind during reading.

On a more general level, I think like that about all communication. The message you receive is not the message I send. We've (= both sender and recepient) got to manipulate the medium (spoken words, written text, whatever) in such a way as to increase the extent of similarity between sent message and received message.

kahnovitch
March 9th, 2004, 06:45 PM
Originally posted by Dawnstorm

On a more general level, I think like that about all communication. The message you receive is not the message I send. We've (= both sender and recepient) got to manipulate the medium (spoken words, written text, whatever) in such a way as to increase the extent of similarity between sent message and received message.

Aha!
Now I know what you're talking about; interpretation.
I.E. what the writer writes, isn't necessarily what the reader reads, but he (the writer) tries the best he can to translate his feelings into a common language that can be understood by all.

Dawnstorm
March 9th, 2004, 08:20 PM
Originally posted by kahnovitch
Aha!
Now I know what you're talking about; interpretation.
I.E. what the writer writes, isn't necessarily what the reader reads, but he (the writer) tries the best he can to translate his feelings into a common language that can be understood by all.

Exactly (though for writers of fiction clarity isn't always a priority).

And my argument is that a "work of fiction" that is not being interpreted does not exist. (There is a "book" or whatever, but that's just a thing).

And my main point is that reading is a creative process as well, not just writing.