Monday, May 21, 2007

Ask the Authors: Monday

It's time for "Ask the Authors" week. If you have a question you'd like the folks of Charis Connection to consider in a future month, send your question to Thanks!

How do you balance art and entertainment in your writing?

I make sure I understand that for my style of writing, both are equally important. I give them both credit for their value in the craft. That way they don't fight. -- Rene Gutteridge

Honestly, I don’t worry too much about the art part. I enjoy “playing” with words—I love alliteration and metaphors and onomatopoeia—but I’ve never been a literary writer and when I try to force something for the sake of being artful, it sticks out like a sore thumb. I love it when a phrase happens to come out with more poetry and beauty than I expected, but I write to convey a story, not to impress with my prose. –Deborah Raney

One of Webster’s definitions of “entertainment” is “something diverting or engaging.” Given that definition I see no difference between art and entertainment, so it’s not necessary to keep them in balance any more than it would be necessary to balance, say, sports and athleticism. The best novels entertain us artfully by engaging us to the point of diversion from the real world, and in so doing, communicating something important about the human condition. – Athol Dickson

write. I enjoy placing words together in just the right flow that will allow the reader to see the world I see--even though she may not see it in the same way. I have to enjoy this world in my imagination, the conflicts and characters, or I won't enjoy writing it. If it doesn't entertain me in some way, it's just drudgery. Why bother? So to me, art is the ultimate in entertainment, and entertainment is the ultimate in art. --Hannah Alexander

I try to make sure, first and foremost, that I'm telling a great story, one that will hold readers and make it hard to put the book down. Then, when I've got that set, I go back in and work to refine the craftsmanship. And then my editor helps me push it up another notch. So it's a multi-layered process. --Karen Ball

No one has ever accused me of being balanced. I think the answer is best served by tossing away the presupposition that art is not entertainment. Art of all sorts (painting, sculpting, story telling, dancing, etc) is the act of making a statement in the mind of the viewer/reader. Where we get into trouble is trying to make art stand apart from entertainment. Most entertainment is not mindless. Much of it is enjoyable engagement. Sometimes, it isn’t even enjoyable. If you do the art right, it will engage and entertain the reader. They’re not separate goals. --Al Gansky

This question seems to suppose that the two are exclusive. But great art, in my opinion, is always entertaining—not in the sense of the Vaudeville comic, but in holding my attention and making time go away. ­– James Scott Bell

I find this a false dichotomy. lisa samson

When my book All Together in One Place came out (it was my fifth published novel) a kind and generous successful author contacted me and offered some mentoring advice. He said he felt I had great talent but that I needed to think about the reader I wanted to reach and that some of what I needed to do to be successful meant gearing the story to that reader without losing my uniqueness as a writer. He shared his own story of writing beautiful books that didn't sell; and how someone had talked with him in much the same way he was sharing with me. The focus on the reader is what I think of as the entertainment part; and the literary quality I want to find in my own voice is the art part. I balance it (and sometimes don't!) by continuing to improve my craft so that I can keep my reader interested in the story and not loose them to my self-indulgent use of words that I like but don't really move the story along. I cut a lot in my second draft and imagine that reader picking up the book in a store hoping they read the first paragraph and then keep going and don't even notice my balancing act because they've gotten lost in the story. Jane Kirkpatrick.

I think the entertainment has to do with the plot of the story itself and the art has to do with the way the story is told. And yes, there does need to be a balance. Some books have exciting plots but are poorly written. Some books are beautifully written but are otherwise achingly dull. Balance is found in developing an intriguing premise, then using your sharpest writing tools (imagery, metaphor, back story, rich vocabulary) as you put the story on paper. -- Ann Tatlock

If it’s good art, it is entertaining. If it isn’t entertaining, it is something else, pretending to be art. By this, I don’t mean that all art has to be smiles and chuckles; a dark novel can still entertain, just as a drama can at the cinema. And personally, I strive for entertainment. If a person finishes one of my books and wants to go back and study it, rather than savor it, then I have fallen short of the mark. --– Tom Morrisey

Don't balance them. Blend them. --Angela Hunt

This isn't something I think about when I'm writing. I simply try to write the best story I can. I should think the readers are the ones who ultimately decide what's art and entertainment, but then I doubt that readers consider a novel from that perspective. Mostly, they want to read a good story--which can be both art and entertaining. -BJ Hoff


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