[MUSIC] Hi there. I'm Amity Gauge and I'm glad to be with you wherever you are in whatever state of mind. I'm teaching this course to those of you with experience in creative writing, as well as those who have stumbled upon this course bringing only your curiosity. I'm going to be expanding on one of the four foundations of creative writing discussed in this specialization. This course addresses the craft of setting and description. But I must begin my course on setting and description with a very large question, which is why do we write? If lived life, the life around us, is so interesting, why do some of us run into a room and shut the door and invent other lives and other people in places? Lots of great thinkers have different answers to the question of what drives some of us to write. I like one by Mario Vargas Llosa. He says that writers are rebellious. What Llosa means is that in some ways, people who write find reality insufficient. Writers want to create a new reality, their reality, in the pages of their fictions, life as they see it. Here is more from Llosa. There is something in writers of fiction that makes them wish passionately for a world different from the one they live in, a world that they are then compelled to construct of words and upon which they stamp, usually in code, their questioning of real life. And their affirmation of that other reality which their selfishness or generosity spurs them to set up in place of the one they've been allotted. So you're such a person, you feel compelled to express the way you see things, places, or relationships. You want to talk about how beautiful life is or how lonely and unjust life is. If you want to do so, you have to be persuasive. Persuasive, it's not a word you'd normally use for fiction. Another word might be convincing. You must convince a reader to believe your version of reality, your made-up worlds. If your vision is incomplete, sketchy, thin, full of holes, who is going to believe you? The term suspension of disbelief was coined by the poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge in the early 1800s. And he used the term to refer to the use of the fantastic in literature. We now use it to mean the kind of faith a reader is willing to extend to a work of fiction. Can the reader turn off his skepticism and fully immerse himself in a fictional work, fully give over to it, despite the fact that he knows it's make believe? Well, writing a good story is like trying to tell someone a dream, by which I mean, it's hard to do well. Have you ever had someone try and tell you a dream? Wow, it can be boring. But why? The person telling you the dream is often really excited by it or moved to tears. So why aren't you? Here's something to think about. What is it like trying to listen to someone else's dream? What are the factors that make it hard to understand or enjoy someone else's dream? What did you come up with? There are many factors that make it hard to understand or enjoy someone else's dream. Dreams are random, even senseless, sometimes even to the dreamer. Unlikely things happen. Images appear but aren't resolved. Some people say dreams are a person's secret desires or fears. And others, that dreams are just the product of rapid eye movement, a brain that busies itself while its master snoozes. Of course, a big reason it's hard to convey a dream is because often the dream is only half remembered. The dreamer can only convey fragments. In fact when a dreamer relays a dream, it often falls apart on him, because it only made sense when he was dreaming. But the dreamer is still fascinated even when you're bored. That's because dreams are highly sensory experiences. And when the dreamer is having them, they're full of color, wonder, strong emotion. Have you ever woken from a dream sobbing? Or feeling guilty, as if you had done something awful? That's how persuasive and powerful dreams are. Writing a good short story is just as hard as trying to convey the power of a dream. Your story occurs in your imagination in the same way in which a dream occurs in your brain. If you retell it poorly, your reader will be bored and that won't feel good to you. Why won't it feel good to you? Because your dream and your story is important to you. In fact, it may be the most important thing about you. It's your inner life, your secret life. If your story gets rejected or misunderstood, you can feel like your soul is getting rejected or misunderstood. You don't have to tell me how this feels. I know. Every writer knows. You can't be a writer without feeling this unique heartache, especially at the outset. You cannot skip this step. You cannot pass go. So how can we minimize the chances of being rejected and misunderstood? That's what I and my fellow Wesleyan professors are here to help you discover. Remember the satisfaction on the other side of this process. When you succeed in writing fiction, when you succeed in transferring your dream, when you do that well, you do something quietly powerful. You can cause people to change their lives. You can make people cry or fall to the floor laughing. You can if you'd like. Cause them to question reality or to question right or wrong. You can comfort them or cause them to act. You can make people feel free. That's a great goal. It's worth a lot of work and some failure too. It's worth it. Samuel Beckett said it best. Ever tried, ever failed, no matter. Try again, fail again, fail better. I'd like you to take a minute to read the short essay by Mario Vargas Llosa, The Power of Persuasion, located under Course Readings. I'll give you some time to think, read this piece, and then let's return and think it over together.