Thursday, 20 July 2017

Not Too Tidy by Joan Lennon

I've had two quotations kicking around in my mind.  The first is by Joan Aiken, on writing for children: 

"It is the writer's duty to demonstrate to children that the world is not a simple place.  The world is an infinitely rich, strange, confusing, wonderful, cruel, mysterious, beautiful, inexplicable riddle."  The Way to Write for Children.

And the second is from an article by Tim Lott in The Guardian:

"For if I am static as a fully grown adult, then I am doing something wrong. I am holding on to myself too tightly, just as some parents hold on to their children too tightly. Life, yes, is loss and letting go. But without that loss and letting go, it would be like a plastic flower. Indestructible, but ultimately valueless." Life is about loss and letting go.

I think these quotes have taken up residence in my head because a) I am in the process of writing a book with loss and letting go as inescapable aspects of the plot, and b) I am drawn to open-ended endings in my novels.  Riddles that have more to them than can be contained in one story.  I don't mean setting things up for a sequel.  I mean after the book is finished, the world of the story carries on, like Alec Guinness in the last moments of The Man in the White Suit. 

And then, coming as a third, I read this quote from Madeleine L'Engle:

"I believe that good questions are more important than answers, and the best children's books ask questions, and make the readers ask questions. And every new question is going to disturb someone's universe."  Do I Dare Disturb the Universe?

A tidy summing-up paragraph is called for, now, connecting these thoughts, but I don't know exactly what to put in it.  So perhaps I'll end by inviting conclusions, comments, resonances from you?   

Joan Lennon's website.
Joan Lennon's blog.
Walking Mountain.


Penny Dolan said...

Liked all these thoughts but can't help with any last summing-up paragraph.

Joan Aiken's book on writing is one of my favourite books for its mood and wisdom, and sesne of competence and peace. It appeared (I think) before the American story-structure "bibles" arrived.

The clip: That enigmatic ending for the Man in the White Suit is helped so much by the emphasis of the music, isn't it?

Sometimes I wish that writers/publishers could install a tiny device to play just the right music for a certain important scene in a book, but then I think of those too-overwhelming Disney songs and decide that the words should be enough to create the right mood-music in the head.

Good luck with the novel.

Rowena House said...

Lovely post, and no need for a neat summing up, imo. I think this opportunity to leave the reader projecting the story into their own imagined future is one reason why I like short stories, a genre where (perhaps ironically)open questions are something of a convention. I wonder, though, how far it is possible to persuade the children's publishing industry to agree with this openness at the moment. Completeness, resonances between the beginning and ending, and an underlying positive charge of hope at The End seem to be popular requirements right now.

Anne Booth said...

I love this. Thank you for wiring it.

Anne Booth said...

Thank you for WRITING IT - not 'wiring' it!

Lynne Benton said...

Really interesting and thought-provoking post, Joan. Thank you.

Joan Lennon said...

Thanks for all your comments!