Monday, December 12, 2016

Monday Meanderings

Years ago, I attended the Somerset Folk Harp Festival (one of the first) - not actually a festival so much as a professional conference with educational sessions, vendors, and evening concerts.  It was a wonderful event, full of positive energy and possibilities.

(There is a writing-related thought here.  There's always a writing-related thought.)

One session that sticks out in my mind was taught by Kim Robertson, one of the more famous names in the field.  The topic was performance:  all aspects of playing before an audience that didn't involve the harp, from dealing with nerves, to proper posture, reacting to mistakes, and talking to the audience.  Three things stayed with me.

First, the audience is on your side.  They want to enjoy the music; they want you to succeed.  I like to think this applies to writing, as well:  our expectations may be higher, our reading time at more of a premium, but we still pick up every book hoping to be delighted and entertained.

Second, Kim suggested that rather than starting with a verbal introduction, you go right into playing a tune.  This has become my practice.  I'm very shy, so starting with a comfortable tune is far more relaxing than speaking.  What's the writing analogue of this?  Don't start with a description of a sunset, I suppose.

Third, humor is wonderful, but there's really only one safe topic that you can joke about without the risk of offending someone:  yourself.  Self-deprecating humor puts your listeners at ease.

And isn't that true in fiction as well?  Some of the best, most memorable humor comes from the core of character and humanity - from (imaginary) people being themselves.  Writers can poke fun at their own inventions in a way that lets the reader be free to laugh ... even if that invention is sometimes a veiled version of reality.

Humor based in pop culture fades and becomes dated, then incomprehensible; humor based in politics often requires the reader to share the author's outlook.  But the humor of characters colliding is universal and can enliven any performance.

So authors:  make fun of yourselves, or at least your characters.

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