A Writing Entry – More Thoughts on Criticism: Narrative Choices Part 1

This is mostly just an introductory entry about some of my thoughts on narrative choices, and probably more rambling than usual.  But on a positive note, I am planning to re-watch either Hulk or X-Men 2 or both and write fifteen minute summaries of those in the next couple of weeks (mostly because I will be without reliable internet connection for that time-frame, which dismays and terrifies me as it has been a long time since I’ve gone more than a day or two without internets…).

As an artist who creates worlds, the artist controls all aspects of that world.  Therefore, the choices the artist makes about that world and the stories within express something about that artist.  Enter at this point the critic, whose job it is to question those choices and how they pertain to the story and if the story could have been better or worse without those particular choices.  Obviously, as artists put themselves into their creation, it is easy for artist to take it personally when a critic states that the artist made a poor choice, or worse, an offensive choice.  In defense of the artist, oftentimes those offensive choices are not made consciously.  In defense of the critic, when those offenses are pointed out, the artist should accept the criticism and determine if it is valid instead of automatically going on the defensive.  For better or for worse, we are all made up of various biases that we are not going to be aware of until they are pointed out.

I’m almost certain that I’m going to offend someone with my “Nevermore” novels.  Despite being lighthearted urban fantasy, someone will tell me that I don’t understand – women, men, African-Americans, latinas, musicians, atheists, pagans, Christians, Catholics, magic, religion, mythology, songwriting, relationships, or something I can’t even think of right now.  I’m almost certain I’m going to offend someone with my “Snow and Ashes” novel.  It’s a weightier fantasy, but someone will tell me I don’t understand – women, men, magic, Ye Olde Medieval Setting, divinity, or something else.  Heck, I already was told I created a “Mary Sue.”  But honestly this doesn’t bother me (at least not right now).  Authors (and all artists) pull from what they know, and it’s possible, nay, likely, that what I think I know is actually quite wrong.

And that’s okay with me.  I’m wrong about lots of things.  I don’t mind being told so when I can verify it’s true.  Otherwise that’s just trolling.  I don’t want to offend anyone (although I know that’s impossible).  I think it’s important to be aware of our own biases and while it stings to have someone else point out we’ve been engaging in a behavior/assumption that is not true/hurtful, it’s the only way to mature.

For better or worse, narrative choices do reflect on the artist.  Some artists set out to actively offend people and that is their message.  Some actively set out to send one message and unintentionally send an offensive one.  Some aren’t aware their message is offensive.  And some artists aren’t looking to send a message at all in their art, but rather produce a good story/movie/painting/etc. that happens to be offensive.  This usually doesn’t mean the artist is a Bad Person, but rather made an error in judgment.  Perhaps the artist is shocked when they realize the kind of offensive message their art is sending and is glad to be told.  But more usually the artist reacts against the criticism by a) foisting the blame back on the offended (“It’s your fault you’re overly-sensitive”) or b) claiming the offense was indeed intentional and the offended just “don’t get” the message.  Sometimes fans of the artists’ works will do this when confronted with criticism of their beloved media and rage in the artist’s stead.  However, attempting to justify offense seldom results in any decent discussion nor does it ever negate said offense.

So in the future I’m going to post some general examples of narrative choices and offer my (skewed) criticism of whether I think those choices were good or bad for the story, and if they are offensive, and if there is adequate justification for such offense, amongst other criticisms (I’ve already kind of touched on this in other entries but now I’m trying to be more organized).  Look for lots and lots of links to TvTropes.

Right, so there’s the pilot entry; let’s see if the series gets picked up for the season.


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S. J. Drew is an aspiring writer who finally entered the blogosphere to shamelessly promote that writing (as evidenced by the title of the blog). Whether or not this works remains to be seen, but S. J. hopes you are at least entertained. And if you're actually reading this, that's probably a good sign.

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