Embrace your weirdness.
I just finished a book called The Slow Regard of Silent Things, by Patrick Rothfuss. A friend gave it to me, and told me I might like it. He knows me well.
The book is moving because it’s so… strange. Rothfuss himself knows it’s a weird story, and feels so strongly about its weirdness that he wrote an epilogue, kind of apologizing for it. “It doesn’t do a lot of the things a classic story is supposed to do,” he writes.
The thing is, the weirdness of it is precisely the thing that opened my heart, and made me read it all in one sitting.
I relate to Auri, the one character in this book. And for the record, I don’t think Rothfuss needed to include the epilogue at all.
But I don’t read a lot of genre fiction, and Rothfuss usually writes fantasy. There may be more expectations in that genre, more rules he felt he was breaking. I like to think that you can do anything you want in literary fiction. Right? Should market forces be less of a force? Anyway, I love books that don’t fit my expectations, and I wanted to tell Rothfuss to stop apologizing for his uncommon book.
Of course, I also understand why he felt pulled to write an explanatory epilogue for his readers. He’s an author who has fans. So I understand. I want to write a story that people like to read, too. And there are things you know that you can do in your writing—things you put in there for your reader, to make it easier and more fun for her to read.
Like having more than one character, for instance. Or writing scenes with dialogue, to dramatize internal events, instead of using explanatory prose.
But here’s an example of how a writer who knows all the rules of storytelling breaks them, choosing to write something weird yet true—starting with a dubious, perhaps unadvisable premise; something that he fears will be unsellable, unpublishable.
And despite all of that, he follows through with it anyway, honouring his decision by going all the way.
This is what happens when a writer embraces his own weirdness.
And how it shines, how it shines!
If you want to see how you can make expository prose beautiful, how to use language to your advantage in loopy and mysterious ways, and, let’s say, how to make eight pages of soapmaking very dramatic, read this book.
And remember to embrace your own weirdness.
As I like to say to our Story Intensive writers: YOU GET TO DO ANYTHING YOU WANT.
Love and applause to this year’s graduating class! We had an incredible cohort this year—such strong, committed, and serious writers. I think we had some of the best live call discussions this year, ever.
Thank you Ruth Ozeki for visiting our class and answering our questions! Thank you to all of this year’s teachers: I love the way you show up for your writers to keep them motivated and challenged in all the right ways. And thank you Trish, Laura, and Ryan, for keeping this school energized, inspiring and smart.
ps. I wrote about embracing your own weirdness before, and even made a (weird) downloadable poster for the cause. You can find it here.
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