September 14, 2010


What I’m Reading Today: Started the fabulous Anthony Doerr’s Memory Wall. Tony writes the most amazing stories! Have you read the story “The Shell Collector”? One of my favorite all-time stories.  In Memory Wall, there’s a story called “Procreate, Generate” that is amazing ~ and not just because it is set in the town where we live and is about a couple with infertility problems as we have had.

I’ve been thinking a lot about a novel being about a worldview. Every novel sets forth a certain worldview. It’s often, understandably, the worldview of the author, but not always. It can also be the author’s understanding of another world. Another way to think about this is a character is an aspect of the author’s subjectivity.

Often, if you’re like me, you don’t think about it on this meta level. You don’t think of it as a worldview, especially if the worldview is very close to your own. Things just make sense. This is the logic of the world. So it’s odd to step back and think of it as a world view, which it is your world. It’s easier to think of a novel protagonist that’s very different from you as having a worldview.

But if you take a step back even farther, there are layers of worldview. Each character has a worldview, and the setting takes a role. Then there is the cumulative worldview of the book that includes all the characters. Then there’s the author’s worldview.

From a craft perspective, it’s the exact right detail on all levels that makes the worldview come alive and seem authentic. Worldview, for me, is often largely unconscious. It just feels right. This character has this motive and that character has that motive and when they come together this is what’s going to happen.

Think about these worldviews from a reader’s perspective. It helps if it’s interesting and maybe a little odd, even surprising. Either that or exactly like theirs. They want to be transported to this other place. They want to “buy” each character’s point of view and the book’s world view and also that author’s art. Think about how momentous that is: a person wants to be pulled out of his or her selfish little universe to experience someone else’s for a while, even if it’s a bad one ~ such a social impulse, the ultimate act of empathy.

Questions of the Day: Do you think about “how to be interesting” when you write? Do you think about worldview?


Pembroke Sinclair said...

On some level, yes, I do think about "worldview" when constructing my stories, usually because I have politics/social commentary infused into the narrative. Often, though, when I go back and reread, I am surprised at how deep my views actually go and how the characters make it their own.

Tamara said...

That's interesting! Yes - I can definitely see that in yoprj writing. And it does go deep.

DazyDayWriter said...

Very interesting, Tamara. (thought I'd drop by, say hello!) I don't do much with fiction (someday, perhaps), but yes, worldview is definitely something I think about when I write. It's amazing how vastly different this can be, person to person -- even within the same family. And my view is continually being modified per age, experiences, and so on. My graduate work was in sociology, so I love this topic! Take care, I'll stop by again soon. --Daisy @ Sunny Room Studio

Tamara said...

Hello, Daisy! So kind of you to drop by! I can't wait to check out your blog. You said you worked in philanthropy for years - I work for a foundation myself for my day job.

I bet sociology graduate work was fascinating! What specifically did you investigate? I studied pioneer diaries and identity for mine.

So nice to meet you!