Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Vossler on Soaping and Writing

Over at Mythic Scribes, A.L.S. Vossler of The Lonely Young Writer discusses the commonalities between soaping and writing. Excerpt:
Recently, I took up the hobby of soaping, which, as you might guess, is making soap. ... At first blush, soaping and writing have absolutely nothing to do with each other. There is little to no risk of being exposed to extremely caustic chemicals while writing -- if there is, you are probably doing something drastically wrong. Soaping has many rigid rules, whereas writing has very few by comparison. With writing, you can bend the rules and wind up with something awesome; bend the rules in soaping, and the best-case scenario is disappointment. Worst case is severe lye burns. As often is the case, however, one discipline can lend insight to another, and it is no different with soaping and writing. To be a successful soaper, you must choose your ingredients carefully, be attentive to ratios, use a recipe, be patient, and most importantly, have fun. All of these things have far more to do with writing than one might realize.
Read the whole thing. Vossler's article is worth going through from intro to end, but what really resonated with me was her section on ratios, on the balancing of different parts of the compositional craft. We all know that genres have their fixations. Literary fiction tends to focus on characters, SF on extrapolations of technical details, and fantasy on fully realized imaginative settings. All good things -- but not if moderation doesn't serve as a counterpoint.

According to my Kindle app, I'm currently at 18% of a fantasy novel by a well-known author, and I'm finding it tough going. Not because the author doesn't have chops. Indeed, every jot and tittle seems charged with creativity, an imaginative effulgence spilling out into the book's secondary world. So far, though, that's all it has to offer. Minimal plotting. Mostly flat characters. No outstanding themes. Perhaps that will all change as I plow on, but right now the title's giving me plenty of reasons not to. Vossler notes, "Too much emphasis on the milieu leaves the reader feeling less like they have read a story and more like they have listened to someone build a world for Dungeons and Dragons." Amen.

(Picture: CC 2010 by Keith Williamson; Hat Tip: @JRVogt)

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