Friday, May 20, 2011

Counterpoint on King's Advice

I read recently that Stephen King said (and I'm seriously paraphrasin') Don't write down idea's because IF they are good idea's you will remember them anyway-and if you don't remember them-they weren't good idea's.


And here's why.

YOU as the writer won't/don't/can't know what is going to resonate with the reader and move them.

Sure, sometimes you'll think, hey this will work or that will work--but other times a little aside that has little conscious meaning to you as the writer will strike a nerve and move someone-it will resonate and rock their perception and the readers perception of your story is the readers reality.

I know because I have done it. Small tweaks in stories have changed characters into some readers favorites-and that would not have happened if I wasn't taking notes and later perusing them and putting that stuff into the book. I call it Tetrising things in.

It's all well and good for King to throw out that particular advice but the reality is we all forget things and will continue to forget things and at King's age - How many things has he already forgotten? How many sparkling gems has he potentially trod over? I suggest it isn't even a potential-its absolutely already happened countless times.

So I advise, in contrast to a million dollar writer (because he is wrong), take notes because YOU will forget.

The Muse can be fickle, don't ignore her, don't think she'll call back later with the same message, and don't forget to map the journey she is asking you to travel on.

Crossposted at the Man Cave Authors Blog.


Kimberly Krey said...

Oh, yes. I couldn't agree more! My muse kicks on while I drive a lot, and I will pull that SUV over and write on my hand if I have to. I know my brain, I know my limits. I am easily distracted, so I have to grip hold of those would-be passing thoughts and put them to the page (or hand) before they're gone. Great advice!

Lagomorph Rex said...

yeah.. but I mean think about it.. This is a man who can basically get anything he wants published.

He dosen't have to remember good ideas if his publishers will print whatever it is he does remember..

Jacqvern said...


King has a point though. You take it literally, however there is another view here.

Have you noticed that people remember always what strikes them and make an impression on them?
And we tend to erase from memory less important things? I'm sure it happens to you too, except if you're the exception to the rule. :D

It's how the brain works, regarding memory capacity, reaction (logical & emotional) to stimulus, info process ability and psychology.

So if you think about it, from this point of view, if the idea we get is striking or impressive, it will stick. Thus we should better go for those striking-impressive ideas.

Quote:"...the writer won't/don't/can't know what is going to resonate with the reader and move them."

The writer should know. The writer should not write for him/herself, but for his/her targeted readers. But that's another discussion.

Don't look at King's statement literally, look at the philosophy behind it. It's a good correlation.

I agree with you that most of us should take notes. Even those with large memory capacity should. I do too. But don't dismiss that statement so easily, ponder on it first. Things are not always what they seem at first glance :)

Spartan heart, I like that. I'm Greek and one of my heroes is Leonidas :D

Thank you for the thought-provoking post

David J. West said...

Kim-I have done so much great brainstorming while driving too.

Lagomorph-true, but you and everyone else aren't in that situation. I almost added in an asterisk for this very situation.

Jacqvern-thanks, in a perfect world "We" the writer would "know", but I found even writing something that my brother (an ideal reader for me if there ever was one) was still moved by an aside, that I hadn't realized-hence my motivation for a portion of this rant.

And then as time goes by, I found strangers moved by things as well-so it showed me we don't always know.

If you had the power to always know-that would be somnething-though I'll admit for King to be in his position, he has (or at least had) quite a grasp on this for the masses.

Robison said...

It seems like writing advice comes in two forms: the inspirational "squishy" advice, and the more concrete, practical advice.

From a squishy advice perspective, I think King's quote is helpful--it's something that kind of romanticizes writing and makes it seem more magical and Muse-ish than it really is.(And I definitely think that can be helpful, from a more motivational, creative sense.)

But yeah, a lot of squishy advice seems to break down when you're in the trenches actually working.

It seems like, maybe, the squishy advice helps you want to write, and the practical advice actually helps you do it.

Charles Gramlich said...

Absolutely. Considering that some of King's ideas haven't been that great, I think he should have written down some of the others he had.

Nathan Shumate said...

Also, remember that King has spent his career writing novels the size of cinderblocks. He can't afford to undertake a 200,000-word project with a concept he's less than entirely passionate about -- one that won't occupy and possess his mind without a written reminder.

I think short fiction is a whole different game.

Trep said...

Agreed. I like King's work as much as anybody, but his style of writing just doesn't work for a lot of people.
Really with writing it's all about that, finding what works for you. And I think most people would agree that you're prone to forget things you don't write down. Dullest pencil remembers more than the sharpest memory and all that.

David J. West said...

Robison-I can see that, I sure don't think King doesn't have merit - I loved ON WRITING, but I do pick apart some points.

Charles-ha, that reminds me of another non-blogger friend who insists King didn't even write The Regulators.

Nathan-I suppose short fiction that is still sitting at the 100K level or so. I personally take notes for all my writing-short stories and novels.

Agreed thanks Trep.