I’m just now getting around to reading (by that I mean ‘not scanning,’ but really and truly reading) this book on writing that was assigned my first semester of grad school. In Charles Baxter’s Burning Down the House: Essays on Fiction, he digs into the problems that plague current fiction. One of my favorite essays thus far is “Against Epiphanies” which reminds me of a classmate’s reaction in workshops to the word “realize” (Eric, you know who you are! :-). Baxter argues that we writers have grown lazy. The need to wrap things up with some revelation inevitably leads us to end our short stories and novels with a tacked-on Aha! moment, when everything we’ve learned so far as finally, finally added up to some great knock on the head.
Why can’t we write a story for the sake of the story itself? Why does there have to be some great revelation? Eric, you were right. Every time I read a book or see a movie where someone says, “And then I realized …” it ruins the whole thing.
Baxter quotes Raymond Carver: “What good are insights? They only make things worse.” This will be my mantra as I write this week. Not to “realize” anything at all.