The Right Way to Write
One of the unusual things about Sanchin-Ryu is that the class meets only once a week, through the local community ed. program (which helps keep the cost down). But you’re allowed to visit other classes, which I’ve tried to do on a fairly regular basis. Last week, I was at the Lansing class, where Master Barnes was working us through the basics, presenting them in a way I hadn’t seen before.
The first punch was slightly higher. The second and third extended out further. The heel-palm strike was targeted more to the center. I’ve been doing these moves for four years … but not like that.
This has been an ongoing thing with Sanchin-Ryu, the idea that there’s no single way to do a technique or a form. Throwing basic ten with a chop to the shoulder and a heel-palm to the ribs is totally valid … but so is throwing the chop to the temple and following up with a heel-palm to the eye socket.
We talked about that some last week, and this time I got a new answer. Instead of talking about how there isn’t a single right way, Master Barnes suggested that there is in fact a right way to perform a technique: the right way is the way that works, that allows you to get out of the situation alive.
I like that. And writing, to me, is the same way. The right way is the way that works, the way that allows you to most effectively tell the story you want to tell.
Which isn’t to say there are no rules. If I try to throw a kick while standing on my head, it’s going to be pretty ineffective. Stances and techniques are taught that way for a reason. But the more you study, the more you learn how to take the idea of a certain stance and apply it to different situations. An “Open L” stance might be longer or shorter depending on where you are, what you intend to do, and so on.
Writing is the same. There are certain rules and techniques that pretty much every published author I’ve met has learned to use. But as you continue to study and grow as a writer, you learn to adapt those rules, when to take risks, and so on.
And you are taking risks. If I modify the throw in one form, maybe I can do a bit more damage, but I also open myself up to a strike to the ribs. Likewise, if I adjust the techniques of storytelling, I might produce a more effective scene … but I might also jar readers out of the story.
Writing has rules, but those rules are fluid. A white belt writer breaks the rules because s/he doesn’t know any better. A black belt writer adapts those rules deliberately, to achieve specific ends.
Discussion is welcome, as always.
August 16, 2011 @ 10:09 am
Loved the article. *sigh* I wonder if I’ll ever graduate from white belt in story writing.
I gave the first chapter of my story to my younger sister. I thought it was a great manuscript. She handed it back to me disgusted and knocked my ego down about twenty notches. I rewrote the scene from scratch doing a different angle – nothing else was changed, just the writing technique itself and she told me it was a vast improvement. Still with lots of imperfections, but her criticism and the different rewrites taught me a lot. But at least this time she came back with a “would read!” attitude.
Now I go back and wonder why I ever made those original mistakes to begin with.
Jim C. Hines
August 16, 2011 @ 2:46 pm
“Now I go back and wonder why I ever made those original mistakes to begin with.”
Having reread some of my older stuff, I think I know what you mean 🙂
At the same time, I find myself thinking back to one of my very first classes at Sanchin-Ryu, where the sensei had us all repeat after him, “I will mess up!” It’s part of the process. If we’re not making mistakes, we’re probably not taking many risks or trying to grow…
August 16, 2011 @ 7:19 pm
You want the ultimate taking risks and breaking rules. I just started reading Charles Stross’s “Rule 34”. ever read a second person POV, non choose your own adventure book… It seems cool so far, but it got a lot of horrible reviews due to not following the 1st/3rd person…..just takes a bit of getting use to…….
Jim C. Hines
August 17, 2011 @ 7:55 am
See, that makes me want to read it, just to see how Charlie pulled it off!
Martin L. Shoemaker
August 17, 2011 @ 11:04 am
Kipling told us long ago:
There are nine and sixty ways
Of constructing tribal lays
And every single one of them is right!
August 17, 2011 @ 4:35 pm
It is actually his second second person sci-fi (the first being “Halting State” in 2007. So far it is cool, if ya do read it let us know what you think of that style.