Our tragedy tod…

Our tragedy today is a general and universal physical fear so long sustained by now that we can even bear it. There are no longer problems of the spirit. There is only the question: When will I be blown up? Because of this, the young man or woman writing today has forgotten the problems of the human heart in conflict with itself which alone can make good writing because only that is worth writing about, worth the agony and the sweat.

He must learn them again. He must teach himself that the basest of all things is to be afraid; and, teaching himself that, forget it forever, leaving no room in his workshop for anything but the old verities and truths of the heart, the old universal truths lacking which any story is ephemeral and doomed – love and honor and pity and pride and compassion and sacrifice. Until he does so, he labors under a curse. He writes not of love but of lust, of defeats in which nobody loses anything of value, of victories without hope and, worst of all, without pity or compassion. His griefs grieve on no universal bones, leaving no scars. He writes not of the heart but of the glands.

William Faulkner, Nobel Prize acceptance speech

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8 thoughts on “Our tragedy tod…

  1. Pingback: 100,000 Words | Vers Les Etoiles

  2. This is utterly beautiful.

    It makes me think of a creative writing professor I had that wanted us to write a short story about a character in such a way that both we and the audience would fall utterly in love with them (not necessarily in a romantic sense, a lot of people wrote about endearing children or siblings or parents).

    At the next lecture, our assignment was to kill that character.

    But kill them in such a way that it would have an impact- it would leave a scar on our minds, our hearts and the minds and hearts of our audience. He went on to explain that if you have any epic sort of death scene and you and your audience are not utterly stricken by it, then you have failed as a writer.

    That lesson is the one that has stuck with me the most over all these years.

    • Wow. What a great assignment. He is completely right. I know I’ve struggled with killing off characters in my stories because I liked them, but I knew their death served a purpose. And there are fictional characters whose deaths I STILL cannot read without tears. (Fred Weasley. Why JK Rowling!?)
      But it’s interesting to think of writing a character that is so…complete and so realistic that the audience/readers cannot help fall in love with them even if you as the author know their fate. I’ll have to remember that just because my characters may not last, they still need to be real. Thanks for your comment! Very thought provoking for me!

      • I’m glad! It was a very enlightening assignment for me as well.
        In fact, the book I’m working on has a character that I myself adore, even though I know his death has to be the catalyst to get the main character to stop being problematic.

        Did you read the interview with the actor who played Fred where he discussed reading that last book (way before the last movie)? If I remember correctly, he was on a train and he looked horrified, then looked up and told a complete stranger “I just died!!! I can’t believe it!!!”

      • I actually toy with the idea of pulling a “Moulin Rouge” and telling the reader at the beginning that said character will die. And see if I can still manage to make them care. I think that would be a real test.

      • I think I do remember reading that somewhere about…whichever Phelps twin plays Fred. I also read that his twin completely lost it during filming –which was good for the scene–because it was so easy to imagine that it was real.
        It’s so easy for me to let my characters go “flat” when I know they’re going to die, but in your story I think it sounds very promising! A Moulin Rouge story twist would be SO COOL. That would be a really intriguing concept to play with…especially making certain that the “real time” death of the character still pack a punch…definitely tricky

      • I love trying for that tricky element….I’m a determined perfectionist like that. Probably why I don’t have anything close to being published 😉

      • I unfortunately think my perfectionist streak drives me to abandon things instead of going through and tearing them apart until I reach the heart and soul that’s hiding under all the fluff. It’s great to have a mind that can think of the tricky twists! 😉 I need to work on being trickier haha

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