Jane Haddam’s WordPress weblog

Clarified Butter

with 3 comments

Well, for the sake of a few explanations:

1) “unrealistic expectations” are not the same thing as false hope.  Unrealistic expectations are when you’re talented at writing and want to make you’re living as a writer, and you’re just convinced you’re to do it. The odds are, of course, that you won’t.

But false hope is when you’re NOT talented, you’re completely tone deaf and want to be a singer, or completely uncoordinated and want to be a dancer, or have an IQ of 101 and want to go to med school, and you’ve taken your shot and area waiting to hear, absolutely convinced that the verdict is going to be good.

When everybody around you already knows what the verdict is, and that you’re being  delusional.

2) I don’t remember ever having been subject to contempt,  myself, because of a false hope. 

I do remember feeling instinctive and automatic contempt for other people who exhibited it.  I think this one was born in the bone.

3) I don’t need the story to be a complete career path–in Burning Questions, the heroine ends up as an activist, something I’ve really got no interest in being. 

What I need is a story I can project myself into plausibly and a role I can project myself into plausible, a role that I can actually assume at some point if I want to.

4) House plans magazines are, for me, entertainment.  Like I said, I’m never going to build a house.  Other people may have had wonderful experiences doing that, but my father did not, and I’m not interested in taking the risk.

5) The issue is not taking advice from fiction.

It’s providing myself with roles into which I can project myself–in giving me an opportunity to imagine myself in the role and get an idea of how it would feel.

Come the point when I actually launched myself into the project, I’d go looking for all the nonfictional sources of information. 

The fiction provides me with an emotional template, not a practical one.

6) Woo-woo is something I can take or leave, depending on the circumstances.

I absolutely love the Twilight Zone, I’m a big fan of Stephen King, I think Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House is one of the best books ever written. 

Woo-woo comes in many varieties.  I prefer the kind that is ambiguous, where you can’t quite tell if there’s actual woo-woo or if it’s all in the character’s minds.

But that’s because

7) I don’t ONLY read fiction for the emotional reasons I’ve been talking about.

I’ve got all kinds of reasons.

But, that said

8) Even when I’m not projecting myself into a character or characters, I just don’t care about stuff that takes place in outer space or has to do with characters who are something else than human and that don’t exist in the actual world.

These kinds of things just do not stimulate my interest.

I can sit through them in movies, and even have a reasonably good time–I kind of liked the new Star Wars movie–but they don’t say anything to me.

Written by janeh

August 1st, 2012 at 9:58 am

Posted in Uncategorized

3 Responses to 'Clarified Butter'

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  1. Most of this makes sense. I am, however, completely baffled by the “emotional template.” I may not have accomplished everything I set out to do, but I’ve had enough successes to know what one feels like–and failures, too.

    You are, of course, perfectly entitled to whatever range of fiction you find satisfying. I merely repeat my conviction that if schools offered a wider range, thye would produce more readers and those readers would be more skilled. Not that it matters in the least: the high school English departments would rather see complete illiteracy in their students than swap out John Steinbeck for Bob Howard.

    As for the “actual world” and otherwise, I quote for the blog readers what I’ve already pestered Jane with:

    “There are those who say that wizards are subject to temptations and addictions beyond the understanding of ordinary men: the addiction to shape-changing, or to meditation under the influence of certain herbs and conditions of the stars; the obsession with knowledge and the development of power. Yet this is not so. Temptation is temptatin, obsession is obsession, and choice is choice.”
    –Isar Chelladin, PRECEPTS OF WIZARDRY, quoted in Barbary Hambly, DOG WIZARD.


    1 Aug 12 at 6:14 pm

  2. When I was in Junior High, we had a required unit on science fiction in an English class. At the end of the unit we were to write our ‘reaction’ to the stories. Part of my reaction was that I didn’t like the stories because, in my opinion, they would/could never happen and the author’s were simply trying to manipulate the readers’ emotions. My teacher assigned a D to my paper and told me that what I had written was the sign of a narrow mind. For years after this experience, I forced myself to read things that I didn’t like because I certainly didn’t want to be “narrow-minded.”

    Eventually, though, I came to the conclusion that if you indicate that you don’t like what someone else does, some people will take that as a personal attack or a criticism of what they do like. That means that any reason or supporting evidence you provide will be countered and objected to with vigor – to try to convince you that you are simply missing something with its underlying implication that maybe you just aren’t smart enough to ‘get it’ and that’s why you don’t like it.

    You like what you like. Does there need to be a ‘reason’ for that?


    8 Aug 12 at 9:20 am

  3. Sometimes you can learn something about yourself by reflecting on why some type of plot or type of character immediately attracts or repels you. That particular private exercise doesn’t mean that you have to like it once you’ve understand your reaction to it, though.


    8 Aug 12 at 12:55 pm

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