The Art and Science Of It AllPosted: February 5, 2012
There is almost as much availability of stuff and words about stuff as there is a thirst for knowledge about stuff, its origins and endings. Much of writing, both fiction and non-fiction, is devoted to satisfying our need to discover new stuff. That information can be presented in a multitude of forms through a host of media. As with most disciplines, there is both an art and a science to writing–the subjective and the objective. We tend to evaluate what we take in by a sense of how these two seemingly conflicting components should be proportioned. One writer may choose to emphasize art by choosing to leave quotation marks out of his dialogue. Another may stress science by strictly adhering to certain conventions in structure or formulas in plot. I think that somewhere in the middle most readers are satisfied as long as they learn new stuff.
My personal preference is to write as I would like to read. Since fiction is my preferred stuff, I enjoy weaving interesting facts into the warp (or sometimes the woof) of the made-up stuff. Now some of you will be compelled to look up the definitions of warp and woof and in so doing shall learn new stuff. Learning new stuff is sometimes passive. As in science, certain objects are acted upon by forces without action of their own. Some learning is “caught not taught” as one person of assonance made clear. Good writing, including fiction in my opinion, should provide kernels of knowledge to enlighten the reader albeit unbeknownst (what a cool word) to him at the time. In my novel, The Falcon Dirk, for instance, the reader learns the origin of the terms “Black Shoe” and “Brown Shoe” as they relate to the enlisted ranks of the U.S. Navy. The information had no bearing on the plot, but it gave the reader something to take away into the real world, however trivial it may seem.
I was introduced once to a fact that seems to bring art and science together in the revelation of new stuff. I was made aware that almost at will I can see things never before seen by anyone in the universe. I can touch things never before handled by man. It is a simple power we all possess and is easily within our reach. It is something profound and at the same time so simple we don’t even recognize it. We learn as we enjoy and give it no thought whatsoever. All I have to do to see something no one else has ever seen before is to gaze upon the inside of the apple I have just cut in half. Writing is like the apple. It’s the author’s business to take that common thing and give the reader a glimpse inside.