Sunday, October 28, 2012

George Saunders on short stories

I just read a short story by one of my favourite authors, George Saunders -  the sublime The Semplica-Girl Diaries in the New Yorker, and am now reading an interview with George (I hope it's okay to call you George, George!) and I really love what he says about writing:

One thing I always feel in the midst of trying to talk coherently about a story I’ve finished is that, you know, ninety per cent of it was intuitive, done at-speed, for reasons I can’t quite articulate, except in the “A felt better than B” way. All these choices add up, and make the surface of the story, and, of course, the thematics and all that—but I’m not usually thinking about any of that too much, or too overtly. It’s more feeling than thinking—or a combination of the two, with feeling being in charge, and thinking sort of running around behind, making overly literal suggestions, and those feelings being sounded out and exercised and manifested via heavy editing and rewriting (as opposed to, say, planning and deciding). The important part of the writing process, for me, is trying to make choices that push the story in the most interesting direction, by which I mean the direction that causes the story to give off the most light. The story’s goal is to be fascinating and stimulating and irreducible; the writer’s job is to micromanage the text to make this happen.
Isn't that lovely, "the direction that causes the story to give off the most light"! I am going to remember that and read that out to people when I run workshops.  Do go and read the story first, then read the rest of the interview, which gives away a lot of the plot! George has a new collection out very early in 2013 and there are rumours he's coming to do events in the UK. Can't wait!

7 comments:

Sophie Playle said...

What a wonderful way to describe the writing process :)

Tania Hershman said...

Isn't it? I love it when other writers write about the process beautifully, so I can use their descriptions instead of blundering clunkily to try and find my own!

dan powell said...

Thanks for posting the links to this. I love reading short stories alongside interviews by the author. One Story does this sort of thing really well. I've put both these on my Pocket list for reading very soon. Looks like a cracking interview from the section you quote.

Rachel Fenton said...

Read the story - saved the interview for later - love the mild neurosis he builds; regardless of when a story is set, some things (human) are always parallel it seems!

Oli D. Nejad said...

Thanks for sharing this, very inspiring. I'm doing a short stories module at university at the moment, and I'm reading lots of older short story theory so some contemporary insights are a welcome ray of sunshine.

WOMEN RULE WRITER said...

Great stuff, T. Ta!

chillcat said...

Brilliant comment. How heartening and real. I always feel like I am chasing myself when I am writing a story, that 'I' am the last person in on the big secret ! X