Posts Tagged ‘purpose’


One of the greatest temptations in writing is to introduce and expound on things which, although they may excite the writer, don’t necessarily serve the story. Maybe you have a fetish for leather hooker-boots (guilty as charged) and will do anything to force one or more of your characters to wear the thigh-high monstrosities, going on and on in over-excited detail about the design, texture, clickety-clack sounds, and heel-to-toe ratio of the footwear which you’ve so proudly outfitted for your character. This kind of senseless detail is commonly referred to as “Artistic Indulgence, or “Artist’s Indulgence.”

There are endless ways in which artists and writers indulge themselves at the expense of their audience. Maybe you’ve created a character based on your aunt Susan, and although this character isn’t a main player, you feel obligated to give her as many scenes as possible for the purpose of paying homage to your dear, sweet, favorite aunt. This is also a kind of Artistic Indulgence, or maybe more accurately, “Author’s Nepotism.” Whatever you choose to call it, these practices can be fatal to the overall effect of an otherwise good story.

Artistic indulgence of whatever kind is the antithesis of artistic unity. Artistic unity is the practice which holds that there must be nothing in the story that is irrelevant to the plot; that there be nothing mentioned that does not contribute to the meaning, texture, or final result of the story. Artistic unity is the weaving and ultimate uniting of all the puzzle pieces, and every good plot has plenty of it. In short, if you’re going to draw attention to a thing, make sure it pays off, otherwise readers will feel like Alice chasing the White Rabbit down a hole, only to find nothing at the end.

As I have submerged myself deeper and deeper into the education of writing, it’s become impossible for me not to notice both the strengths and weaknesses I see in my own writing, but also in the other books I read and the movies I watch. The most recent storyline which has fallen under my cruel, hawk-eyed radar is Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. While I am a fan of the movies and certainly in no position to condemn them, watching it from this new perspective, I couldn’t help noticing some things about the plot that stumped me.

For starters, the movie begins with Kate Capshaw’s character, Willie Scott. For the first several minutes of the movie, we listen to Willie cast out a dull musical number and watch the synchronized dance steps of her and her back-up dancers. Not a big deal really, unless you note that Willie’s performance possesses neither the glamorous musical edge nor the buoyant sexual suggestiveness to appeal to the movies target market audience.

After another several minutes of Kate Capshaw, Harrison Ford, aka Indiana Jones (after whom the movies were titled), shows up and stares at Ms. Capshaw, making her the center of the audience’s attention one more time, in case they missed how hot she was the first time. As the movie plugs along, we walk through Willie’s fears of spiders, get in touch with her femininity as she lords her powers of seduction over Indie, and witness her intellect as she lifts a magic diamond or something. Then we endure another ninety minutes of her face screaming into the camera as her character becomes more and more of a well-rounded player, gaining dimension and strength as she grows and changes with the various adversities she faces. Oh, and in the meanwhile, Indiana Jones is somewhere trying to save humanity or something.

When I was little and the movie was semi-new, I only knew that I didn’t really like it. But now, I was seeing things that made it perfectly clear why it wasn’t working for me. Stunned that a well-respected and professional director like Steven Spielberg would overlook such obvious plot flaws, I turned to Google and learned that not only was Mr. Spielberg enamored with Ms. Capshaw during the filming of this movie, but that the two went on to be married, and I believe, still are. And this… is artistic indulgence at work.

I don’t bring this up to critique the work of any of the actors, actresses or directors of this movie. I am not a movie critic and there are many people who love Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, and that is fine. But as I watched it, I kept getting the feeling that there was a better storyline inside there somewhere trying to get out. And this happens all the time… all due to the lack of artistic unity.

Artistic indulgence is something I suppose you can get away with when you’re an established powers-that-be, but for me, as a beginning writer, it is a luxury I can not afford. If I ever want anything real to become of my writing, I have to tell very tightly knitted, powerful stories. I can not create and foster anything just because it tickles my fancy. I can only have one destination: purpose.

In closing, it is my greatest hope that one day, this will not be the case, and for the record, if and when that day ever comes, the first thing I’m going to do is throw a random, screaming hot chick into my story. In hooker boots.

But until then… artistic unity is my greatest ally.

P.S. ~ The beast has been unleashed.

Beautiful Monster is now available in eBook and paperback editions at Damnation Books: http://www.damnationbooks.com/book.php?isbn=9781615727742
Amazon:
http://www.amazon.com/Beautiful-Monster-ebook/dp/B00948Q0DK/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1347132178&sr=8-2&keywords=Beautiful+Monster+Jared
and Barnes and Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/beautiful-monster-mimi-a-williams/1112783047?ean=9781615727759

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     Life is incredibly short.  The saddest part about this is that we spend so much of what little time we have wondering how to spend it, and once we do figure out how we want to spend it, we are met with resistance, negativity and that two-letter word we all hate most of all: No. After so much of this, we just want to throw our hands in the air and go back to our places in line, accepting the grind as our lots in life and carrying on, moment to moment, day after day, playing it safe and making sure not to rock the boat of monotony.   This might work for a while, but eventually, those notions of something greater, something more meaningful, will catch up to us, tackle us, and pin us to the ground, demanding we heed our own instincts that we’re capable of more.  When we’ve reach that point in life where we’ve put fear in its place and thickened our skins enough to take the punches, there are a few things we can do to counter-balance the effects of the coming obstacles and impediments in order to keep our spirits and our passions in check.  At the forefront of that list, in my opinion, is to have a support network. 

     Whether you’re a writer, a college graduate, a stay-at-home mom, or a poodle groomer, you don’t have time to divulge in anyone else’s version of reality, unless it supports your own success unequivocally.  The fact is, no one but you knows those core truths about you that, if listened to and acted upon, will carry you to your root allocation in life.  We’ve all been out of our elements.  We’ve all taken jobs that simply paid the bills, we’ve all catered to the fear of failure and we’ve all fallen into the designs of someone else’s masterpiece.  It isn’t a good place to be.  We struggle, we fight, we get by… and we don’t even know what for; and all the while we try to ignore the fact that we simply don’t have time for that; that sadly, life comes… and then it goes.

     I’ve reached a point in my own life where, if someone dared to tell me I couldn’t do a thing, I would smile, nod and walk as far away from them as my feet would take me.  My own mother wouldn’t be afforded the luxury of discouraging me, so one can imagine how I might feel about even the gentlest of promptings from a stranger, a friend of a friend, or a stagnant and embittered second cousin through marriage.  If I let these people affect me, I will be discouraged and impotent,  and, as far as I’m concerned, if I let these people make my decisions, I have no right to occupy my own body. 

     So I surround myself with people who have dreams of their own and who believe in mine.  I don’t view this as a simple choice so much as a strategy move essential for survival.  Whatever paths we choose to execute in life, we will be met with enough interference, restraint and discouragement.  It’s just not lucrative to allow it into your immediate personal space.  Your social life should be reserved for those who foster your goals, stimulate your drive and help cultivate your personal empowerment.  In his book, The Master Key to Riches, Napoleon Hill refers to this as the “Mastermind Alliance.”  While I am not typically a fan of self-help or motivational literature, I think he was definitely on the right track with that one, and I recommend the book to anyone.

     If you’re walking, talking and breathing, you have passion.  Even if you have to look for it a little, it’s there.  And passion without purpose and precision is just white noise.  Part of who and what you surround yourself with is part of that precision, so I’ve come to believe in the value of choosing wisely my immediate environment.  I’m standing in a foreign place in my life right now.  Not just in my writing but in everything else as well.  I am at a precipice, looking over the edge at everything I know, just daring the wind to blow a little and knock me off my feet.  But everything I feared is twice removed.  There are a million reasons I can’t succeed and yet all I can think about is the one reason I can: because I want it that damned bad.  Now, more than ever, I’m glad I have nothing around me except the highest caliber of believers, and I’m grateful that, as depressing as it is, I realize how little time there is.

     There isn’t time to listen to anyone else tell you what you should do.  All you need to know is that fish belong in water, painters belong on canvas and writers belong on paper.  It’s just a matter of finding out who you are… your station in life will follow.  Time is precious.  So, if you’re going to stop and smell the roses, first be sure you’re not standing in someone else’s garden.