On Writing and Questions
© 18 Aug 2014 Luther Tychonievich
Licensed under Creative Commons: CC BY-NC-ND 3.0
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Most of my fiction stops without ending, and why it is hard to answer questions in lecture.


Those of you who follow this blog are aware that I have been slowly constructing a fictional tale involving a dryad named Ghost. 32 months after I first started the tale, I have finally hit the point that usually results in me abandoning my writing and moving on to other things.

The source of my trouble is not, I think, “‍writer’s block.‍” Over the past month I have written possible next posts almost every time I have gone to write a post for this blog This explains why so few posts have made it through onto the World Wide Internetwork recently. . I know where the characters are, and I know where they are going and I know how to get them there. But each time I write it I am left unsatisfied with the result. One version had too much about slugs, another jumped too far into the future, one portrayed As an aside, I find that my writing almost always fails to capture the personality of the characters as they appear in my head. Character portraiture in writing is not a skill I have yet developed. Jägerson in a character that was not his own, and so on. Each one seemed to leave the story in a place were the next post could not easily pick up and still reach the end.

This situation is not new to me. I have been writing fiction fairly continuously since I was seven years old, and as my siblings can attest the vast majority of those writings terminated after only a few paragraphs or pages. I often find that what I have written points in a direction other than where I want to go, and I have limited patience in revising what I have penned. This results in my longer works See, for example, the 21-instalment pseudo-series I wrote at BYU, Letter to the Editor through Tales from Grace’s Bar . being somewhat scattered, jumping from place to place and skipping over bits as I more-or-less randomly resumed the trail to the story’s conclusion. It also results in my often simply stopping my stories rather than finishing them because the finish I had envisioned no longer fits.

As I scrapped my eighth version of the next instalment of Ghost et al., I was reminded of a recent conversation I had with Colleen Lewis of csteachingtips.org. We discussed (among other topics) questions students ask in the classroom and how often the questions stem not from the immediate context of the lecture but rather from a sequence of small misunderstandings that had built up over time. In teaching, this means that answering the question is not always even possible on the fly; the question is often unintentionally loaded. To resolve the confusion requires backing up to find and correct the first step along the path to misunderstanding.

In many ways I have found myself with a loaded plot. Ghost and Jägerson have been painted in such a way that the next steps they should take are either awkward or in the wrong direction. I’ll probably just skip forward a bit, letting the transition be awkward, but if the story was important to me instead of just being a pass-time I would probably need to go back a half dozen instalments and re-word things to work out more smoothly. The just moving past it will leave a hole in the story that will never really be fixed, just as moving onward in a course where you are a bit lost will result in a hole in understanding that will often resurface years later when the information needs to be used in the real world.

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