19 February 2005

Paul West's Master Class

If you've not decided to buy the book yet, consider these flavors of being Paul West.

West mentions Beckett's advice to immerse oneself in one's own precious ipsissimosity, aka selfhood, aka "what will this particular work do to me?"

For the rule lovers, West jams into a paragraph what I needed to break into a helpful bulleted list:

- Sometimes suppress an aspect of your subject so as to reveal it later; readers may compare their guesses with the actual fact.
- Instead of editorializing, exemplify; let the reader construe your images and your selectivity.
- Don’t neglect the irrelevant; bring it in now and then, to turn the reader’s head away; then he or she will force it back with renewed interest in the world outside the story.
- Try not to streamline the world. Regard it as an almost ungraspable maze of unpredictable particulars.
- Ask if there’s a greater degree of specificity than the one you’re busy with.
- By the same token, now and then site a vague image amid fanatical precisions.
- Keep asking what the reader, with a little prompting, can supply; then omit it. Make the reader an industrious accomplice.
- As narrator, don’t be afraid to dominate or to intervene. Take complete charge of your work.
- A thoroughly dominant telling gives a greater illusion of a character’s autonomy than a slack one does.
- Remember how first person traps you. Have your first person narrator guess how a third person might tell things.
- Remember to say how things are done, how said, how responded to, and during what; don’t halt, numb, stifle the simultaneous world while staging dialogue.
- Go for contrast all the way. Describing someone weeping, conjure up someone who’d not feel sympathetic.
- Use what lawyers call the best evidence unless adducing minor but immediate particulars.

From Aeschylus's Prometheus, West quotes:

"HERALD: Submit, you fool. Submit. In agony learn wisdom."

In case you didn't read an earlier post, all these come from this:

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