Thursday, November 12, 2009

On Style and Fantasy: Wisdom for Every Writer

The following quotes are excerpted from the Ursula K. Le Guin's essay: From Elfland to Poughkeepsie (1973), as published in The Language of the Night: Essays on Fantasy and Science Fiction (HarperCollins, c1989).

"A fantasy is a journey. It is a journey into the subconscious mind, just as psychoanalysis is. Like psychoanalysis, it can be dangerous; and it will change you." ~ Ursula K. Le Guin

"Many readers, many critics and most editors speak of style as if it were an ingredient of a book, like the sugar in a cake, or something added on to the book, like the frosting on the cake. The style, of course is the book... In saying that the style is the book, I speak from the reader's point of view. From the writer's point of view, the style is the writer. Style isn't just how you use English when you write. It isn't a mannerism or an affectation... Style is how you as a writer see and speak. It is how you see: your vision, your understanding of the world, your voice." ~ Ursula K. Le Guin

"We learn to see and speak, as children, primarily by imitation. The artist is merely the one who goes on learning after growing up. A good learner will finally learn the hardest thing: how to see one's own world, how to speak one's own words." ~ Ursula K. Le Guin

"Why is style of such fundamental significance in a fantasy?... In fantasy there is nothing but the writer's vision of the world. There is no borrowed reality of history, or current events... There is no comfortable matrix of the commonplace to substitute for the imagination, to provide ready-made emotional response... There is only a construct built in a void, where every joint and seam and nail is exposed... A world where no voice has ever spoken before; where the act of speech is the act of creation. The only voice that speaks there is the creator's voice. And every word counts." ~ Ursula K. Le Guin

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Le Guin's essay collections are a delight of original thinking, revelation, and inspiration that never go out of date. This particular collection is out of print, but it can be obtained through the library or a used book dealer.

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