So in another thread here on Mythic Scribes I found myself touching upon a discussion about the pros and cons on experimenting with the 'taken-for-granted' rules of creative writing. Not wanting to derail another poor, innocent thread any further, I'm starting this one.
I suppose my interest in Experimention of this sort came from early exposure to modernist, post-modernist and beat generation writing. Until that point I had never even thought of what different forms, styles and so on could accomplish in a piece of writing. As what correctly pointed out by Shadoe in the aforementioned 'other' thread, blind experimentation, with out proper consideration for the why and what purpose, this loose style falls flat. which I suppose is why so many people have trouble getting to grips with some of the more out-there beat poets.
The first example I wish to bring up is the Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald. It cannot be denied that the man told a masterful story at the era in his life, but one passage in particular stood out to me. Early on in the book the reader comes across a passage which tackles the industrial areas of 1920's inner city America [or close to it]. "Fitzgerald calls it a "valley of ashes" (16), where only the eyes of Dr. T.J. Eckleburg look over it from a billboard nearby." [Frederick C. Millett] I must say when I first read this passage back in sixth form my world was opened to truly awesome metaphor and allusion. While it becomes clear, quickly, that the "eyes" are of a man on a billboard smiling down on those bellow, they are personified to the point that they become a symbol of the slowly emerging 'big brother'-state of the time even. My point is that a lesser writer may have glossed over the chance for intense symbolic imagary [other symbols of the failing American dream and other issues come up time and time again throughout the book] Fitzgerald and his peers were unafraid to push the boundaries of what literature meant at the time, from stock accounts of plot to far more visceral accounts that seem to transcend plot and deal in the psychological.
This, though perhaps not neatly, leads me to a favourite technique of mine: Stream of Consciousness, which started life of course as a psychoanalytical technique almost intend as a way to delve deep in to the mind of a patient [aka character, pehaps?]. The Beats loved it [because they couldn't do much else? who knows ], Virginia Woolfe and peers mastered it. It often comes across a rambling, divergant, and usually puts the reader in mind of a mad man when done wrong, but don't correctly and one can really grapple with the crux of the matter which is human consciousness, and accurately portraying thought in even the most mundane of situations [read Ms. Dalloway for some wonderful examples of this as the eponymous character is serving friends and acquaintances at a dinner party.]
Another wonderful example is the fragmentary thought patterns of the lost [possibly risen from the dead] slave child Beloved, in toni Morrison's award winning novel of the same name. It is hard to follow at times but is so fragmentary and disturbing in nature that we believe whole heartedly that we are privy to the thoughts of a murdered child returned to haunt her mother. Again symbolism plays a huge part in this novel. The number of the house, 124, being a prime example of experimentation with symbols and meaning. Some say it is clear as day that the digits in the house number signifies each of her living children, the missing number three signifying the one she managed to murder rather than watch her grow up in slavery.
At this point I once again recall Shadoe's words from the other thread, paraphrased carefully I hope; leaving out commas, and "experimenting" with grammar is risky and is unlikely to get you published. Of course without their loose regard to the rules, steam of consciousness in the writen form, I believe it wouldn't be quite so immersive and intense.
My current goal in progressing in my creative writing is to write a character who speaks primarily in a steam of consciousness style. Now you may well say that such a character will likely come off as insane, and you may be right haha but the challenge I have given myself is, despite his style of speech, to make this character seem the sanest person in the scene. [I'm also considering making him an alien to sort of justify the odd characterisation, but thats another thing altogether]. I don't intend to half-arse this. If it take me decades to perfect the technique I would like to be able to say I wasn't afraid to try it and see where it took my characterisation... of course if I fail miserably then I'm more than happy to leave it be haha!
My question is this [and well done if you stuck with my rambling and read all of this! I thank you greatly ^^.] have any of you out there ever considered breaking various language rules for the sake of characterisation, or whatever other reasons you can think of? Do you see any merit in pushing the boundary like the early 20th century writers above did? Or would you rather keep things simple, tell a succinct story and get on with it? Do you think experimental writing more often that not [when not mastered?] tends to distract from the telling of a story?
I personally love the use of metaphor, symbolism, surrealist imagery, stream of consciousness and the like in creative writing and believe it can add a lot to a novel when you let it wash over you, and give it the chance to be digested.
So. Any thoughts, my friends?