accidents will happen

Orson Welles once said that a director is somebody who presides over accidents. Robert Altman said that when directing a picture he always looked for the little moments, the things that weren’t in the script but which were real human behavior.

I thought of this when I was reading this post over at Kristan Hoffman’s blog called “Blind Spots.”

Her major point, about getting feedback, is very true (though I’ll have a comment about that also), but a work of art can’t really be compared to a semi-functional laptop, faucet, or air conditioner.

I’m not arguing for a slapdash approach to writing and editing, but rough edges and random chance are not always a bad thing.

Sherlock Holmes remains the most popular fictional character from the next last 100 years despite gaping plot holes in some of the stories and the fact that Arthur Conan Doyle couldn’t remember Dr. Watson’s first name. Every edition of Ulysses has had a lot of errors (in more recent editions they have mostly come from failed and misguided attempts to fix previous errors, some of which weren’t errors in the first place) and it’s still considered a masterpiece. Naked Lunch is hugely influential and popular, despite basically being assembled at random, mostly by people other than the author. Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas is an amazing book, though it was created in a drug- and deadline-fueled frenzy.

A laptop with a broken screen should probably be fixed, if possible, but a story with a comparable “problem” may be just fine.

Or it might not be – a lot of bad books have been written trying to copy the different works I’ve cited above. There is no formula, and sometimes the best thing to do with feedback (even really good feedback) is to ignore it completely.

Speaking of feedback (as I said I would), I got some really useful feedback on the Jan Sleet mystery stories, which led to a lot of minor changes (and one pretty major change, more on this below) and for which I am very grateful.

But now I’m writing a new story, serially (of course), and I don’t have any beta readers who are willing to beta read an irregularly-posted serial story. So, it’s going up as is, and I’ll probably look into the beta reading question when it’s done. I’m fixing the glitches as I see them.

(If anybody is interested in serial beta reading, let me know.)

The major change I spoke of above was the removal of Daphne the dog from “The School Mystery.” A couple of beta readers were squeamed out by Daphne, to the extent that it distracted them from the story. Ordinarily I’d probably have left her in anyway, but the big factor in my decision to remove her was that I hadn’t wanted her to be in the story in the first place. She’d been there, as a minor character, simply in order to solve a plot problem. The beta feedback gave me the nudge to buckle down and solve the problem a better way.

But Daphne is not going away (even apart from the significant role she plays in the novel U-town), and the problem with her appearance in the mystery story was that she’s not a good supporting character (she’s too odd).

But as a major character I think she’s fine, and she’s playing a major role in my current story.

Of which, conveniently, I have just finished the fourth part.

Here’s what’s posted so far:

  1. Arrival
  2. Home Care
  3. Angel
  4. Date Night
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