In our efforts to create engaging, realistic fiction, most of us want the characters in our stories to be blundering in their growth. An unadulterated path to perfection is impossible for humans, and therefore is an ideal that belongs in the realm of religion, not literature.
Recently, memoirists Laura Shaine Cunningham, Mark Doty, Robin Hemley, and Sue William Silverman shared their views about "Writing Through the Hard Place" during e-mail interviews.
Poets have conceived their poems from personal, deeply interior spaces throughout the ages, as in most of the poetry defined as "lyric." Yet the word "personal" has become a minefield in the realm of contemporary critical discourse, linked as it is with the confessional movement of the '60s, whose impulses were originally liberating but now, in many respects, appear tiresome.
The Author-Narrator-Character Merge: Why Many First-time Novelists Wind up with Flat, Uninteresting Protagonists
During my years spent in an MFA fiction writing program, I wrote a novel that was never published. It was not for lack of trying, as I radically rewrote it three or four times during the course of those three years, made one more attempt during the year after I finished with the program, and showed it to half a dozen literary agents before finally putting it in a drawer and moving on.
As soon as you say, "Ah, this will make a great poem," you're probably intimidating the imagination with exaggerated expectations or too much foreknowledge of the direction the poem will take. Sometimes it's the absolutely mundane detail that yields the better poem.
Many writers have said that all creative work begins with a wound. Ted Hughes, the poet, believed that the writer is like a shaman-he goes down into the underworld and comes back again in a new form. While you don't really go into the underworld when writing memoir or autobiography, you do go back in time and in memory, and it's very grueling for most of us.