Thursday, March 18, 2010

Writing craft: I feel conflicted

In one of his old stand-up bits, Steve Martin claimed, "Those French have a different word for everything!"

But it's really the Germans who have the words for everything. Like weltanschauung: a personal philosophy of life and the universe. Or my personal favorite, schadenfreude: pleasure derived from the misfortunes of others.

What I need now is a word for a feeling I often have toward writers when they present a story that rips my heart out, and yet they do it so well I admire them. It's a feeling of wanting to shake the writer's hand and say "Well played, sir (or madam)" and at the same time wanting to punch the writer in the nose and say, "How could you?"

We need a word for this feeling. Germans, get to it. Whoever comes up with the word gets dinner at my house, I'll make my awesome latkes for you.

If you're wondering what brought this on, I just watched the "Seeing Red" episode in Season Six of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Well played, Joss Whedon. Now stand still so I can punch you in the nose.

The cruel irony is that I really hope one day a reader will say "well played" to me and then punch me in the nose. Because the story would not evoke these feelings if the reader did not care about the characters and was not drawn into the writer's imaginary world. A strong reader response means the writer has done his or her job and done it well.

No comments:

Post a Comment