That snorkel's been just like a snorkel to me! (sailorptah) wrote in litkids,
That snorkel's been just like a snorkel to me!

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Ohbytheway. Rax asked for an intelligent person's evaluation on Mr. Fuqua? Well, you'll just have to settle for mine.

First of all, we all know he's a perfectly nice guy. Just wanted to get that disclaimer out of the way: nobody's impinging on his character.

More remarks: "Fiction" is not an easy topic to teach. It's not nearly as quantifiable as math (d/dx of x squared equals 2x, and that's all there is to it) or even English (there are symbols in this text, there's an allegory for such-and-such in that one). How do you write a good story? That's kind of like asking how you come up with a good painting idea. No art class would ever have suggested that melting clocks can make a cool painting. Of course, as Dali figured out, they can.

So I think he's doing a good job of quantifying the writing of fiction. He's separated out the major elements, the physical ones (characters, setting, plot) and the stylistic ones (flow, voice) and is addressing them one at a time. I can't, offhand, think of a better way to teach this topic. (It's not like there's a teacher guidebook for it, with dittos to photocopy and unit tests to give. He's making up this curriculum from scratch, and doing a very nice job.)

The problem, I think, comes in because . . . well, first off, the stylistic elements are largely intuitive. You can talk about flow for hours on end, but if people simply aren't good at holding their writing together, I don't think you can force it. I'm the editor of a collaborative fanfic; I occasionally end up retyping people's chapters and rewriting them because they're all in simple sentences - I don't actually change the facts, I just add the flow.

On the other hand, with characters and setting and plot, those are fairly straightforward in their construction ("set up the conflict here, increase it here, resolve it here" for instance), but the thing is, you need specifics. Knowing how to set up a conflict is easy, but knowing what conflict you're setting up is harder. (Incidentally, this is apparently the topic of next class.)

Note that he's simplified the next story by giving us a specific setting, eliminating one thing we'd have to come up with. But, remember the assignment about creating a family and describing their connections? At least for me, it was easy enough to create the connections once I had the characters - but the problem was coming up with the characters. (I actually took four of them from the fanfic I mentioned - it's also where Adam, Leslie, Jean and her girlfriend, and Victoria came from. This is my standard shortcut when I need a character.)

In the first story, we all pretty much had the intuitive tools down already, and we're all well-versed in the physical mechanics of a story. But we had to pull all of the specifics out of the blue, and that I think was the hardest part. (Of course, it could be just me - feel free to throw in your own two cents on this matter.)

So the practical upshot of all of this is . . . Mr. Fuqua knows what he's doing as far as writing fiction goes. (Well, obviously he does - he's a published novelist.) And he's conveying the process, broken down into its components, as well as he can - and I don't think he's doing that badly so far.

The problem is that the hardest part is the part that can't really be taught. Which is not his fault. And Rax some of us get frustrated when he spends a lot of time on the easy parts, though that's really all he can do.

So . . . yeah . . . I think that's all I have to say. Please, people, reply with your two cents. Because if everyone does, then I'll have . . . twenty-four cents. *nods wisely*
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