Real style comes from not thinking about style, just using your natural language. It will come out completely different from anybody else’s. Then you concentrate on inventing a good story, telling honest stories about real characters and being fair to all of your characters; being clear about their motivations. If you’re spending your time concentrating on those things, style will take care of itself. ...
The most I can do, I suppose, is help them solve this or that problem or get this or that idea, encourage them in what they’re already doing right, and now and then give them a tool that they were almost but not quite ready for and now they got it, so they can move ahead.
I don’t expect to change the world with it, but it does encourage and help writers to get better at the actual work of writing.
DN: I get the sense in talking with you ... that you really value ... the human connection.
OSC: I am really deeply introverted. My idea of hell is to spend eternity going to dinner after dinner with strangers, sitting at a table with seven or eight people and trying to make conversation with strangers. That’s the most horrible thing in the world.
When I’m teaching a writing class, I’m in control of the situation. Give me an audience of a thousand people, and I’ll go for as long as you want and I’ll keep their interest. But don’t put me alone with four strangers. That’s horrible.
There are a lot of introverts like me. We can perform, but we don’t want to converse. I have no small talk. ...
I’m second counselor in the (LDS ward) bishopric right now. The hardest thing I do is one-on-one conversations. It’s a good thing for temple recommend interviews that we have a form. But when I get to know people, then I can converse perfectly natural with them, but I really have to know them before I can do that.
There are a lot of people like us. I’d say the world is almost evenly divided between introverts and extroverts.
But there was a time about 100 years ago when people really regarded gabby, talky people as annoying and foolish. The strong silent type was what was admired. The Gary Cooper character really was who we looked to and admired. But now we look to the glad-handing. "I want my child to be more outgoing,” “I’m so worried my child is so shy and socially awkward.”
That’s not socially awkward; that's private and self-contained. Good for him. He’s thinking thoughts instead of babbling.
We live in an extroverts' world right now — extroverts' culture. But we introverts, we learn to fake it and get by.
DN: Do you ever think about your legacy? What do you want your legacy to be?
OSC: Well, my legacy is my children, their children, our family, things I do in the ward. I’d like to think that I’ve been able to make a difference in some people’s lives there.
My books are what they are. If they don’t outlast me? I wrote for my time. That’s really all you can look for.
It’s nice that Shakespeare’s stuff is still read, but he went through a long period of eclipse when people largely ignored him.
It’s great that Jane Austen’s work survives, but that doesn’t mean that the other writers of her period whose work doesn’t weren’t worth reading and didn’t contribute to the time.
I have no idea whether I’ve created any lasting monuments. Just as with Shakespeare, people will receive my stories — if they are still reading them in 100 years — they’ll re-interpret them into what they want them to be. And they’ll be changed into whatever people expect them to be.
You can’t control that. I’m not interested in controlling the future. The best I can do is offer stories that I care about and believe in right now. So when you talk about my legacy, the only things I’m doing that last are my family, my friends, my ward. That stuff lasts. Those are the lives that you touch. ...
As I lie dying, I’m not going to wish for a stack of my books to be brought in. I’m not going to want people to read aloud passages from my work. It’d just frustrate me because I’ll realize how bad it is.
The only people I’ll want to see are family and a few friends, friends that are like family to me, and that’s what matters.
But you know, I’m a communitarian, so it’s the community.
The thing that fiction’s valuable for is that every novel creates a community of people who now have those memories in common. If I say to you, "Remember, Frodo gave his finger for you," you’ll get the joke if you’ve read "Lord of the Rings." Even though we edit it in our minds and it’s different, we have some memories in common that we can’t get in the real world. We can witness the same event, take part in the same event that will be completely different to us. But when we read the same work of fiction, that structures and orders series of events in a way that clarifies our thought and that we can share those memories together in a way that means something.
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