I came across this great article today over at Uncanny Valley. ‘Workshopping the Weird Kid‘ talks about the difficulties of giving group feedback to those writers who produce strange and unsettling work.
“It’s simply inappropriate to suggest to someone who’s written a story with a unicorn that the unicorn be taken out because it’s weird. Because it’s not relevant, because it’s not effective, because it’s not putting tension on any part of the story, sure. But its weirdness is conditional to its existence. If it wasn’t weird, it would be a horse.”
“It can be really difficult… to examine the weirdness present in a story for its utility instead of for the effects it was intended to produce–confusion, disgust, shock, alienation. These are valid effects for fiction, but like any other writing decision, they must be made to do work on the level of story and not just the level of reader reaction. Saying ‘I wanted the reader to feel confused’, … does not in itself justify confusion.”
Tracy Bowling really gets to the heart of this issue in her article. And it’s something I come across when reading submissions for Inkspill Magazine. I want to publish highly creative work, including things that are considered ‘weird’. But just submitting a weird story won’t cut it. As Bowling points out in the quotes above, the weirdness needs to be intrinsic to the work.