Teardowns and Literature
MAKING CREATIVE CHANGE PART IV
There are 20 possible opening moves in chess. How many ways are there to write the short story? There should be hundreds. In practice, there are maybe ten– and some of those, like Poe’s, are no longer done.
How does one create a new short story form– or a new anything? One way is the concept of returning to First Principles, which is outlined here.
The first question: What’s essential? The sentence. Basic grammar. The alphabet. Words. All else is up for grabs. The idea to recreate from the ground up.
I’ve asked the question: Why do people read?
FOR: Mystery, character, adventure, ideas, knowledge, sensation, emotion, passion, entertainment, escape, understanding, wisdom, experience. What else?
The idea should be to construct a narrative, and adopt a writing style, which can best present these attributes. Or, as many of them as possible.
Our first step has been to break away from the strictly linear, single-viewpoint mode of operating. My first attempts relied too heavily on precise structure conceived in advance. KMC’s, not as much. In the future we’ll move away from that. My belief is that with further attempts we’ll find the non-linear format gives the writer more creative freedom, not less.
The electric vehicle crowd has been big on tearing down automobiles of all kinds to find out what makes them work, then re-engineering them. The most prominent teardown engineer is Sandy Munro, a former Ford engineer who’s put out dozens of videos depicting his analysis of various vehicles.
For the New Pop Lit project, I’ve taken apart short stories of all kinds to discover what makes them work– from Edgar Allan Poe’s, which rely heavily on exposition and invariably lead to a strong or explosive conclusion conceived in advance– such as this one— to romantic adventure stories from Robert Louis Stevenson, to Jack London’s brutally surprising “Lost Face,” to tales by D.H. Lawrence and James Joyce, to Ernest Hemingway’s famous and subtly complex “The Short, Happy Life of Francis Macomber.” As well as more recent work, such as stories by Mary Gaitskill. There’s much to learn in all of them.
The next step, after many teardowns, is constructing an all-new prototype utilizing what’s been learned. A topic I’ll cover in a later installment of this series on creative change and how to make it.