This writing thing is an interesting process–learning to do it, learning to do it better, figuring out what to say. A lot of times it takes hearing the same thing from dozens of sources before it sinks in, before the learning writer internalizes the lesson. Part of the reason I’m working on this blog is so I can think and internalize the lessons presented.
Here’s the biggie that I think I got out of studying Virginia Woolf:
The form reflects the content.
Normally this is a poet-y type of thought process. But Woolf, as evidenced in her diary, and again in her work, thought long and hard about playing with form first, and let the message come from it. Mrs. Dalloway–the story of one day and all the emotion/thought that goes into the most trivial of moments is told in a stream of concious where each of those thoughts are weighed, measured, and presented against the most trivial of details. (“Mrs. Dalloway said she would buy the flowers herself.”) The form makes the content that much more defined.
And The Waves. It’s a frickin’ masterpiece of form and content working with each other. It’s framed like a wave–both in the large and small sense. The “chapters” are waves of time and life experience. Then, in the narrative portions, everyone talks over everyone else, a wave of dialogue surging one over the other. The whole thing undulates–and the reader can drown just as easily as the characters.
And ya know the other thing that I’ve internalized about this lesson?
I need a lot more practice to ever play at that level. I realize that I’ll probably not write a Waves-indepth piece, but I do understand that the form of a novel, and the forms presented within the novel, play a rhetorical part in the telling of the story. It’s something that I’ll be concious of.
I end this exploration of Virginia Woolf with a great sense of appreciation and my head dizzy in admiration. I hope that this section has been helpful to blog readers, likewise.
Now we move on to P.G. Wodehouse. Should anyone like to sound off on what we’ve talked about with Woolf or if anyone has something that they’d like me to look at as we move forward with Wodehouse, please do so!
Jenny writes dark fiction that her mother hates. Her stories and essays have appeared in Across the Margin, Pantheon, Shimmer, Black Denim Lit, Skive, and others. When she’s not writing her own stuff, she’s reading mysteries for Criminal Element. When she’s not writing fiction or reviews, she’s writing/directing/performing/designing plays at Springs Ensemble Theatre.