Monday, April 8, 2013

Angst and Good Taste

Last Friday, I asked my husband to read a draft, which turned into a massive argument regarding the epithet "angsty" and whether it's possible to critique fiction in a genre you neither respect nor care for. It was a fun discussion.

--digression: Varda just popped up on the chair to give me a kiss on the forehead. Trying to determine if she's trying to play or barf up the twigs she ate earlier.--

Okay, angst. Not sure why that particular word lodged in my consciousness and is functioning like a Pong paddle (ancient reference alert) in blocking revisions. To me, "angst" is what I'm supposed to grow out of in my writing, it's self-aggrandizing melodrama. If my characters are angsty, they are annoying. If my plots are angsty, they substitute fake emotion for authentic.

When the backpedalling began (isn't lit fic basically all angst?), I was already re-evaluating what I was trying to accomplish. It seems sometimes that I am like the bug in the Phantom Tollboth who swam through the Sea of Knowledge without taking on a single drop. Critiques are difficult to take on and I'm not great at it. Not unlike this post, I'm tempted at times to deconstruct the critique while taking all the negativity on board.

I didn't want to hear the word or see the broad outlines of how I construct a story. I tend to start with an image and emotional impulse rather than a plot, a distinct voice, or a miniature movie. My characters rarely begin life in motion. Perhaps I'm just as stuck as they are?

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