Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Paracosms, or GTFO of my head.

So I've been thinking a lot lately about what makes a good online writer. What makes someone good enough that others would follow him? Yes, there are more articles about this than there are people (though I doubt more than there are ants), so everyone's got an opinion. That is the problem, though--good writing isn't just opinion. For all the sincerity of those bloggers writing about blogging, I'm looking for something else. Something with that X factor.

From a NYT article by David Brooks:

My best theory is this: When we are children, we invent these detailed imaginary worlds that the child psychologists call “paracosms.” These landscapes, sometimes complete with imaginary beasts, heroes and laws, help us orient ourselves in reality. They are structured mental communities that help us understand the wider world.

We carry this need for paracosms into adulthood. It’s a paradox that the artists who have the widest global purchase are also the ones who have created the most local and distinctive story landscapes. Millions of people around the world are ferociously attached to Tupac Shakur’s version of Compton or J.K. Rowling’s version of a British boarding school or Downton Abbey’s or Brideshead Revisited’s version of an Edwardian estate.

Millions of people know the contours of these remote landscapes, their typical characters, story lines, corruptions and challenges. If you build a passionate and highly localized moral landscape, people will come.

As one of the many who've taken both creative fiction and nonfiction writing classes, I'm well aware of the balance between the strategies in both genres. The problem is that having many interests makes it difficult to focus on one, which is what bloggers unite to insist. It's why I blog so infrequently--I simply have too much to say about too many things. A landscape, however...now that's doable.

I'm striking the term "moral" from that final sentence and moving with it.