On Writing in the Workshop: Stories Aren’t Objects

Image of Tracey Emin and her art via Pas Un Autre

In response to previous post by Joel Smith

I don’t know that I can let that last one slide. I’m not big on being called a misogynist.

Especially when there’s little evidence to back that up. So, the claim, as I understand it (and with up-to-the-minute language like “temptress muse” and “drageur”, how could I not?) is that comparing women to stories is a form of objectification. Do I have that right? Well, I assume you’d only think that if you thought of stories as objects. I see it much more as personifying art than objectifying people. My point last week was that revising stories ends up feeling like you’re fighting with them, arguing with them, listening to their points and trying to come to a common ground, much like one might do with a girlfriend in a loving but tumultuous relationship. Ben [Rybeck]’s point, from the week before, was that after all of those years of tetchiness and exhaustion, there comes a sweet period when you look at the one you love (story or girl—or boy, of course, because it’s just a human thing and not a guy thing, hello) and recognize that love is still there and that all your differences can be worked out.

I don’t use craft books because they’re constantly comparing writing a story to building a house. I think that’s idiotic. Houses all have the same exact function; fifty different families can live in them and there’d be no difference; as soon as you learn to build one house, you can build a hundred more the exact same way and they’re all done well. Stories aren’t houses. Stories are very much like people—which was our point, of course—where we have to handle each one differently, to nurture our relationships with them based on who they are and who we are as a result of them. Workshops are like a group of friends you’re crying to after a break-up: you fill them in on the details and they give you informed advice, because they know who you are and what’s best for your relationship. Sometimes it looks hopeless and they tell you to give up, go your separate ways, because you’re not doing each other any good. Sometimes they can see pretty clearly where the attraction began, and they send you back to talk everything out with each other.

Stories aren’t objects, so comparing women to them isn’t objectification. Thought I’d clear that up.

Ted McLoof

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