Last weekend, I spent a delightful time with the Eastgate crowd at eNarrative 6. More about that, including photos, later. But in the meantime, here's an after-the-conference conversation I had with Clare Hooper, the author of StorySpinner.
(the second half of this conversation was posted on Feb 14, 2006)
Mark Bernstein Asked: When authoring a hypertext, should one have a complete mental model of the work, or is it possible to make a good work too complex for even the author to fully understand, even in structure?
Hmm, That's interesting. You could limit the question down to linear writing as well --is it ok to start writing a novel, say, without a complete idea of where it's going? will it be inferior?.--
You could almost consider, say, a modern-day operating system: huge, sprawling, and no one coder is going to be able to fully understand it all.
If you're writing code, you have docs, and you know exactly how each part ought to work....
I think you have hit on something... when writing software, you only need to know about the immediate vicinity in order to make your code fit: you need to know the APIs used by your code and the parts of your code which the other software will use.
Ah, yes! This makes sense.
Hmm. This is how I authored my sculpture, come to think of it. To this day, I can't find individual items on my sphere
Heh! That does make sense though. Because with any complex creation - be it hypertext, a lengthy document, code - it's easy enough to forget intricacies after the act of creation, and, with increased complexity, perhaps during it too
When building the sphere, I focused on at the immediate, contextual view to fit things, and when I ran into a corner, I zoomed out, looked at the slightly-larger context, tweaked things, and zoomed in again.
Sounds like a great technique!
it's like refactoring code.
Again -yes, I was about to make that comparison :-). You need the low level and the high level view.
When you realize that the last 25 lines of your code really should be a function, you step back and make it a function.
Exactly! I think the act of creation, of whatever form of document or art-efact, is in some ways very similar across a vast sweep of genres and approaches --The idea wouldn't have come about without this conversation :-)
I read a book, a year or so ago, about creativity, and the author urged her readers to apply the ideas within, whether they were dancers, painters, writers, whatever, and I think she's right.
The other thing that occurs is that people often see coding and the like as very uncreative - I have a technically brilliant friend who describes himself as utterly lacking in creative talent, but he's not right about that.
Creativity can take on many forms.
Right. Code is poetry.
Uhm, you seem to have got me going :-)
I think this is all to do with the approach taken.
Any artist (using that term in the looser sense, someone who is creating something) needs to be able to juggle different levels of view - as you did with your sculpture, for example, or Mark's hypothetical hypertext author.
or even a painter
The scale of the creation influences the amount of work required, of course, but I suspect that as long as the artist is able to juggle that view, to know what's going on *right here* in the work...
...then it should, with time and effort (and talent!), fall together.
and I suppose different styles work differently if you're writing a grand manner epic painting you might want to sketch it out first, think about the general colors and then go into the detail. By sketching it out you know you don't have to worry about the rest while you're working on detail because you already have a general idea. This is what I did, somewhat, with the sculpture. I already had a structure.
Yes, true. Whereas?
other sorts of art, you start with detail and work your way out, letting things interact as you go. This is what collage artists sometimes do, for example. Or some mixed media sculptors, or even artists who begin with studies in detail.
Yes, I think I see.
I wonder how much that approach relies on the art form taken, and how much on the personality of the artist?
:-) Some of the filling out of the overall idea is informal of course, thinking in the bathtub or what have you.
In the case of much creative nonfiction you have to start with detail, at least in the research phase (which is intertwingled with the writing anyway).
You might have a plot, but you don't really have the story unless you figure out what pieces are available and begin to collect them.
Of course, this isn't always the case, but it is often the case in creative historical nonfiction.
Yes, you must work through the fabula, the basic plot elements, before you can construct something approaching a story or narrative.
Yes, I can see how that might be.
This is cool stuff ! :-)
After discussing that question, Clare and I also discussed the role of form and genre in answering the question of the impact of tools on how we create. I'll post that conversation tomorrow.