Do writers have stances?

by Pari

This week I’ll finish the second half of my training in basic mediation. The experience so far has forced me to examine some of my hitherto subterranean assumptions about conflict, motivation, communication . . . and my writing. As a result, I’m currently working on an idea that remains woefully incomplete, but that might interest the ‘Rati.

The role of mediators is to help people in conflict come to mutually acceptable solutions. If mediators are good at their job, those solutions are generated by the “disputants” themselves. Whatever the mediators think of the individuals involved, the goals remain the same. Basically, mediators are the guardians of a process; they hold it foremost in their actions and words to create a space of trust and hope, so that the conflicting parties can move forward from their seemingly stuck positions.  The mediators’ fundamental stance is one of respect for their clients and a belief that the clients can come to solutions.

Some writers do this too. They honor the process of writing to the point where they spend their time discovering “what their characters want to do” within the story to make it whole. They may guide the process, but give the characters permission to expand beyond what may be been first planned.

Other writers are more like architects. From the moment they begin thinking about a story and their characters, each component is defined and part of a sound structure that might, possibly, be flexible enough to withstand high winds, but that already has shape before the first word is typed.

Freeform writers don’t dare have a goal — unlike mediators who absolutely do — and just want to explore, explore, explore. They may go back and polish or change after the fact, but their initial approach is all about the discovery.

Are there other predictable writing stances?

Egoists? Do they think their stories and characters are all about them?

Sadists? Do they put their characters into impossible situations just to see them suffer?

Masochists? Do they kill off beloved characters and cringe during the entire writing of the story?

Bosses? Are there a group of writers that demand their characters work hard and get the job done efficiently?

I don’t know! I’m just playing with an idea: Do writers have predictable approaches to their writing? And, if so, do readers sense these fundamental stances and, unconsciously, select the ones that are most copacetic with their own fundamental life stances?  

What do you think?



8 thoughts on “Do writers have stances?

  1. Marina Sofia

    Intriguing idea! Clearly there are styles, stories, genres that you are naturally more predisposed to like, that simply fit in better with your values (or perhaps you want something that is a polar opposite). But from the point of view of methodology? I would have said no. Except that, now that I think about it, I find the boss stance a bit soulless, the egoist one rather whingey and annoying… so clearly there are some personal preferences at work there.

  2. Pari Noskin

    Thanks for the response! I'm not tremendously committed to the concept, but thought it was interesting to look at. I think it's also been on my mind because of doing this fiction judging — of all kinds of genres — and noticing certain personalities to the writing that go more to the writer's preferences than necessarily being part of the story or driving that forward.

  3. Jake Nantz

    If they do, then mine is prarlysis by overanalysis. I'm so stone frozen through fear that I can't get it the way I want that I often write it in my head multiple times over multiple days (ok, weeks) before putting it down. Then I still piss and moan because it isn't as good as it appears in my mind.

    Maybe that puts me in the masochist party…

  4. Reine

    Hi Pari,

    I have been trying to determine how I see this as a reader. As a writer, I tell the story in a setting that I know well. I look for story first, but a sub layer of social commentary is always there being played out by the characters, there but not explicit. As a reader I tend to gravitate toward books that have similar levels of meaning, somewhere in them. I don't like to be hit over the head with it, but I like it to be there.

  5. Pari Noskin

    You made me laugh. Thanks. I don't think that's what I had in mind for the masochist though. I was thinking more of writers who make themselves miserable by hurting their characters . . . but, you know, you might be on to something with your line of thinking.

    I do know what you mean re: the writing. It so often seems so much better in my head. I have the same experience when I try to make visual art. 😉

  6. Pari Noskin

    It's wonderful to see you here. Sorry to take so long to respond . . .

    I wonder how we'd label the kind of writer you describe? Subtle social consciousness/commentator? I know what you're talking about because I'm attracted to many of those books as well; they've got a richness to them that adds to the reading experience. I'm going to chew on this idea.

    Thank you.

  7. PD Martin

    Hi Pari. I really enjoyed this blog. It's always fascinating to apply different theories to other areas (in this case mediation stances to writing)!

    And a nice companion to Gar's blog on buildings last week 🙂

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