Saturday, March 7, 2009

Writing with conviction

I didn't think the Notre Dame game would be that big of a deal, but it ended up being pretty sweet. It was the last regular season game for the Irish, and they honored the seniors on the team. They played a great game and beat St. John's by 19 points. I'm glad we were there for it!

BooksI did indeed finish my B-word book after we got home. I got to the point where I felt, "Oh please just let me get through this already!" I did finally start to feel some affection for some of the characters, and it looked like that was going to pay off with a tragic ending in which the butler died before he and one of the servant girls could elope. Tug at my heartstrings, make me shed a tear, feel bad for poor Charley Raunce...nope. They left for England where they got married and lived happily ever after. (And it even used that phrase.) That was quite a disappointment, believe you me. Not that I want characters that I've come to like to end up dead, but at least it would have provided some interest to the story! Gaaaaah, it was astounding in its lack of entertainment!

I've just started my next book club entry, The Old Wives' Tale by Arnold Bennett. (I'm about three books behind, but I'm working on catching up.) I haven't begun the book itself, but read the author's preface, and the final paragraph really struck me:

It has been asserted that unless I had actually been present at a public execution, I could not have written the chapter in which Sophia was at the Auxerre solemnity. I have not been present at a public execution, as the whole of my information about public executions was derived from a series of articles on them which I read in the Paris Matin. Mr Frank Harris, discussing my book in Vanity Fair, said it was clear that I had not seen an execution (or words to that effect), and he proceeded to give his own description of an execution. It was a brief but terribly convincing bit of writing, quite characteristic and quite worthy of the author of Montes the Matador and of a man who has been almost everywhere and seen almost everything. I comprehended how far short I had fallen of the truth! I wrote to Mr Frank Harris, regretting that his description had not been printed before I wrote mine, as I should assuredly have utilized it, and, of course, I admitted that I had never witnessed an execution. He simply replied: “Neither have I.” This detail is worth preserving, for it is a reproof to that large body of readers, who, when a novelist has really carried conviction to them, assert off hand: “Oh, that must be autobiography!”

WritingI love that! How about you? Do you feel that you write with conviction? Does your passion for your subject reach readers, and make them care about what you care about? Can you wow them with your ability to make them feel that they are right there with you experiencing what you're experiencing...even if you're not? Because this has a flipside. If you are able to make someone believe that you have experienced firsthand that of which you write, while you've never even come close to experiencing such a thing, that's a powerful talent. The question is, will you use that talent for good or for evil? And keep in mind that there are those who create elaborate and false scenarios in their own minds (I believe it's called being delusional) and are able to convince others of the veracity of their stories.

It's an interesting thing to ponder, and I thought it was a fascinating anecdote. Based on just the preface, and the clarity of Bennett's writing, I think I might like this one a lot. He's already made me think, and that was just from reading the preface!


  1. I agree that being able to write about things that you have not experienced and draw others in is a talent. But delusional people believe what they spout, so there is much less talent involved, if any :o)

  2. I think even if I were in a book club, if I found the book very boring, I'd move on to another. It would feel too much like school work to me.

    There are talented liars & then the clinically delusional. I read your husband's comment & would have agreed with him BEFORE some of the medical jobs I've had. Even some of the delusional types(meaning dx'd as by doctors) knew when to totally change their story, or so it seems, when they were caught or when their details were questioned.
    So what do you do, Beth? ;-0 You read a journal of a talented delusional, do you comment? Do you return? IRL do you keep up a friendship with a neighbor like that or a coworker, or avoid them?
    I couldn't avoid people like that at work(patients), but at home & online I've sometimes been drawn in a little before I was "sure," or thought I was sure. Because I believe eventually, sometimes pretty soon, you can tell. And I never met one(outside of work) who didn't change their story up a bit when questioned. To me that says they know what they are doing & get enjoyment out of it or feel very important because of the reactions they get to it(even in some cases the negative reactions). ~Mary

  3. And always be extremely careful with bloggers who feel they have to write their name TWICE after a comment. They are surely narcissists.

  4. I want to think that I write with convinction. One of the reasons that I leave 'so much' in my comments, in my own journal, is that when I write, I try to do so with convinction.

    Putting my 'mind's eye' in the circumstance or situation, and talking about what it is I see, what I am able to notice ... and some things you can feel without actually having 'felt' them.

    The example listed of the execution was apt. You can take your experience, the experience that has been shared with you, and the learning you get from being a part of life, and describe almost anything.

    What happens, is that it takes sincere thought and effort, which most of us max out on when things requires that we think about someone other than ourselves.

  5. Hi Beth,
    I've always felt that I am one of those people who can write with conviction, when the occasion calls for it ... but, unfortunately, the occasion almost never arises ...

  6. Although I write with my own set of convictions, I don't really write with the intention of it being read by others. My own blog is probably the most self-indulgent thing I've ever done, and it still embarrasses me that others read it. I'm continuously aware of not offending others or giving misinformation, and I have to read everything over ten times before pushing that Publish button. I'm such a wimp! When I write fiction, however, I can be quite fanciful, and I'm not afraid to embellish.

  7. back in the day i did write the truth with conviction and you know how far that got me. Sometimes, at least online, it is better to stick to the weather and last nights dinner menu.


  8. I do love to read things that draw me in to the point I feel I am there with that person experiencing those things they are talking about. Hugs, Kelly

  9. Conviction? If it's coming from truth you need less as your speaking from experience. If it's a fable I've found the elements are expounded upon given more than neccesary to push the picture into view (then again I try to get as graphic as I can in my descriptions of what I write, so that element sits on the border between the two). I have come across blogs where they externalize on anothers experience and try to make it their own. It's happened when they've tried to not exactly plagarize but take certain things I've written about and twisted them to their own means. I tend to stay away from those life is mine in whatever it may be. Find your own wounds to clean out. I hope that makes sense.

    There is a definite line between truth and fable. On any given day it depends on who you know, a few may blur that line ever so innocently. (Hugs)Indigo


I'm funny how, I mean funny like I'm a clown, I amuse you?