Crazy Writing Theories
I don't know if everyone does this, but among my friends it is totally normal to turn to one another and ask a very specific question about writing. Then we argue about it until, usually, we come to a fairly staid conclusion, or one of us comes up with a crazy theory.*
I love a crazy writing theory.
I think my love of them started when I worked as a production editor on medical journals in the same office as mroctober. He would come up to my desk on his way to the photocopier and make some writing pronouncement (my favorite of his might be "potential literary romantic partners should never do permanent physical damage to one another" -- it's probably not important why he thought I needed to know that and I still disagree; one imagines, so does Megan Whalen Turner). I have heard editors and publishers make crazy pronouncements too (my favorite pronouncement of all time is probably "bat picture books always sell big.")
As far as I'm concerned, there are two types of crazy theories: theories about reader response and schemes that are going to (no, really, this time it's gonna work) streamline the process. Like, for an example of crazy process-streamlining theories, there was the time I was going to count up the scenes in my last book and use that as a guideline to outline my next book by scene instead of chapter. It was going to be great! Everyone got a chuckle out of that one.
In terms of reader response theories, here's a recent one and the one I was debating with jdparadise in the comments section of another post:
"If a character does something gross it's worse (in terms of reader response) than if a character does something horrific."
For instance, we are happy to read about Dexter or The Talented Mr. Ripley or root for the romance of puppy-killing Heathcliff. But we are less happy to read about someone who picks their nose. The nose-picker (unless we're talking about a kid) better be funny because it'll be really hard to get readers to consider that person seriously as a romantic prospect or as a heroic protagonist. Which is weird, because I'm pretty sure the opposite is true in real life.
What do you think? Agree? Disagree? Have a crazy writing theory of your own to share?
I have to have something to say at Clarion, right?
*in calling these theories 'crazy' I fully acknowledge they might not be 'true.'