Sunday, January 14, 2007

Steinbeck on the ingredients of a good story

When a writer undertakes a work that is based loosely on their own lives they seem to want to try and create a bit of space in the text to justify why they are writing in such a style and about such a subject. I posted the comments made by Marcel Proust in Remembrance of Things Past about writing and John Steinbeck also has something to say in East of Eden.

Chapter 34 at the start of part four is used by Steinbeck to talk about stories and what makes people write them.

“A child may ask, ‘What is the world’s story about?’ And a grown man or woman may wonder, ‘What way will the world go? How does it end and, while we’re at it, what’s the story about?’

I believe that there is one story in the world, and only one, that has frightened and inspired us, so that we live in a Pearl White serial of continuing thought and wonder. Humans are caught – in their lives, in their thoughts, in their hungers and ambitions, in their avarice and cruelty, and in their kindness and generosity too – in a net of good and evil. I think this is the only story we have and that it occurs on all levels of feeling and intelligence. Virtue and vice were warp and woof of our first consciousness, and they will be the fabric of our last, and this despite any changes we may impose on field and river and mountain, on economy and manners. There is no other story.”

For anyone thinking of writing a novel there is some real food for thought – just the small matter of good and evil as subject matter and character bases.

1 comment: said...

This can't have effect in actual fact, that's exactly what I think.