Monday, August 13, 2012

A Theory of Sentences: A Mystery Muse Visit


My time at Clarion West ended on July 27th. It's taken some time to re-enter, to be pulled in eight ways at once, which is situation-normal here at home. It will take much longer to understand the new ideas Clarion West gave me. In no particular order, I'm going to be blogging about some of those things that may be useful or interesting to others. 

Visitation from a mystery muse* and developing a theory of sentences.

Ted Chiang visited us while Kelly Link was with us. Kelly asked him a question. "Do you have a theory of sentences?"

Up to that moment, I'd never considered a theory of sentences.

Ted thought about it—he is a thoughtful person—and then replied by referring to Annie Dillard's essay "Write Till You Drop":

"A well-known writer got collared by a university student who asked, 'Do you think I 
could be a  writer?''
'Well,' the writer said, 'I don't know. . . . Do you like sentences?'"

Ted Chiang said, "I like sentences."
- - -
I think every writer probably has a unique theory of sentences, but I haven't formulated mine yet.
I do know that I like sentences. . .
A sentence diagram:
"They build too low, who build beneath the stars." 
• I enjoy imagining the ways sentences resemble electrical circuits. 
A simple electrical circuit,
although I wonder why the
bulb is illuminated.

• I also appreciate their organic nature, the ability of the life of a sentence to find a way.

• I think too, that there is something fractal and iterative about sentences. 

So, I'll start there while I develop my theory of sentences. And when I'm writing those sentences I'll remember another thing Ted Chiang, mystery muse, said about voice: It isn't about prose style; it's about what you are interested in—your unique fascinations. 

* Mystery Muses: In addition to the instructors (check out next year's line-up) other writers and publishers—the mystery muses—come to share what they know. NOTE: The Mystery Muses are in no way responsible for the way I misunderstand or miscommunicate what they said. 

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