Autodidact: self-taught


Playing God

by V. L. Craven

I’m currently working out a new short story (or perhaps novel) idea that involves research. I thought that when I stopped acting I would no longer have to research projects/characters.

Little did I know.

Now when I have an idea for a fiction piece I figure out the background before I figure out the plot. I have to see the world the characters live in long before I see the plot. “This is the world these people live in, what’s the conflict?” That’s how it starts. All fiction (film/TV/play/novel) is about conflict.

I’m working out how the world these people live in operates, which is a full time job. Then I figure out how that world falls apart. That’s how it works for me.



by V. L. Craven

Kafka: A Very Short Introduction by Ritchie Robertson
001. …the author himself is hard to distinguish from his fictional self-projections. … It is equally difficult to separate Kafka from the protagonists of his novels, whose names are progressively reduced (Karl Rossman, Josef K. and the mere K. of The Castle). Kafka himself encountered this difficult in January 1922, checking in at a mountain hotel, he found that the staff had misread his booking and written his name down as Josef K [afka] . ‘Shall I set them right or shall I let them set me right?’ he asked his diary.
002. Franz had the added difficulty that as a boy he was, by his own account, so uninterested in sex as to be prudishly offended by any mention of it…a hint by his father that he ought to visit a brothel seemed to the teenage Franz ‘the dirtest thing there was’.
003. [Regarding University] So, since every subject was unattractive, he might as well study one–law–which was completely repellent. ‘In the months before the exams,’ Kafka recalls bitterly, ‘I suffered great nervous tension and lived on an intellectual diet of sawdust, which, moreover, had been previously chewed by a thousand mouths.’ …for anyone without definite plans or interests the study of law was the obvious university course to choose…
004. Even so, creating such figures, half-terrifying and half-ridiculous, is clearly Kafka’s way of gaining distance from and control of his own situation.
005. The flight from life into literature must fail because literature has to be about life.
006. [Re: Letter to His Father] It presents the writer, in a highly dramatic but broadly plausible way, as someone whose self-esteem has been severely damaged by an insensitive upbringing…
007. [Re: Letter to His Father] But in large measure it is a story–a story such as Kafka told himself about his own life. That is no objection: perhaps the best that even psychoanalysis can provide is a satisfying story of how we became who we are.
008. ‘I consist of literature, I am nothing else and cannot be anything else.’
009. [Kafka fantasized about] a life at a writing-desk in the innermost room of an extensive cellar, interrupted only by walks to fetch his meals from outside the cellar door. Even when solitude was available, writing was difficult and frustrating. Kafka’s diaires are full of stories that peter out after a page or less, and of lamentations and self-reproaches at his inability to write. Only occasionally did he manage to write successfully and without conscious effort. The greatest such occasion was the night of 22-23 September 1912, when from 10.00 pm to 6.00 am he sat at his desk writing The Judgement in a single sitting. “That is the only way to write,’ he told his diary the next day, ‘only with such coherence, with such complete opening of body and soul.’
010. By writing, he could escape futile self-analysis through assuming a higher perspective. The consolation of writing, he noted in 1922, was that it enabled him to leap out of the ‘line of killers,’ in which every action was immediately nullified by self-observation, and to create ‘a higher kind of observation, a higher, not a sharper one, and the higher it is, the more inaccessible from the “line”, the more it follows its own laws of motion, the more incalculable, joyous and ascening is its path.’
011. [Kafka’s] literary blood-relatives, he said, were Flaubert, Dostoevsky, Kleist and Grillparzer.
012. [Kafka] admired precision, economy, and understatement, espeically in short prose sketches such as those by Peter Altenberg and Robert Walser, and in short fiction like that of Chekhov and the early Thomas Mann. It may be surprising that he also enjoyed Dickens, but he was impressed by sheer overflowing energy, especially since he felt its lack.
013. Reading Kafka is a puzzling experience. Impossible events occur with an air of inevitability, and no explanation is forthcoming.

Not only are the characters bewildered: so is the reader. As in the cinema, events are shown only from the viewpoint of the main character. With very rare exceptions, we see only what he sees. As early as 1934 Theodor Adorno wrote that Kafka’s novels read like texts accompanying silent films. The reader’s knowledge is similarly limited. We learn no more than the central character knows about his situation.


Kicking Your Own Arse Into Writing

by V. L. Craven

This was my motivation for returning to blogging regularly. (5 Realisations that Helped Me Write Regularly by Joel Gascoigne). Gascoigne succinctly describes the problems bloggers have, as well as the ways he’s dealt with those problems.

The advice that applied most to me was not to worry about insane amounts of research (something that also applies to fiction writing), to set a schedule for posts, and to complete posts in one go, rather than throwing out a bit and saving it as a draft to ‘fix’ later. The other parts regarding reaching more readers isn’t important to me, as this site is more of a commonplace book where I learn to express my thoughts on various subjects more articulately, to think more deeply.

I used to worry that I’d run out of topics or that I wouldn’t have anything intelligent to say about whatever I did choose to write about. Start writing about anything you find interesting, then learn to think about any subject with objectivity. Examine your biases, learn about yourself. Then write it down. At the very least you’ll learn more about who you are.

Hat tip to Lifehacker .

(I love the internet. I’m writing a blog post about a blog post about a blog post about writing blog posts.)


The Art of Fiction (David Lodge)

by V. L. Craven

This is a collection of David Lodge’s essays regarding the various aspects of fiction that appeared in the Independent . The way he tied everything together was interesting and extremely useful for writers, serious readers or people who simply want to know more about the way novels are put together. Each chapter starts with an excerpt from a novel that illustrates the theme of the essay.

I only gave it four stars because it seemed a bit slow, though that could be entirely down to my current reading speed.

This book is indispensable for writers, as he helped me work through some problems with my novel that I didn’t even know I had.

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