General Public, tape 2
DATE: 15 May 1957
OCCASION: Session with the General Public, 4 p.m., 202 Rouss Hall
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Unidentified participant: [...] completing your writing, whether you start writing it or does it develop as you go?
William Faulkner: It usually develops as I go. It can begin with an anecdote or—or an action or a character. Then when enough people get in it to begin to talk back and forth to each other and to impact on one another and to begin to quarrel with one another, they take charge of the story. All I have to do then is to trot along behind with a notebook and a pencil and put down what they do or say. [audience laughter] Then, of course, at the end, you have to go back to the rules of unity and coherence and emphasis and give it some sort of shape, but—but the characters take—take charge of the story. That's my own system. Other people work from plots and diagrams and keep notes. I never had a notebook and never did any research. Mine is done for pleasure, for fun.
Unidentified participant: Will—will A Mansion follows the same characters as The Town?
William Faulkner: Yes, that's right.
Unidentified participant: Do you see it? You're working on it now?
William Faulkner: Yes.
Unidentified participant: Mr. Faulkner, do you believe that there is a American language developing as compared to the English language, or [that they are] the same language?
William Faulkner: Yes'm, I think so. I don't know how many generations, eons, before it will be too distinct, but any language, if it is not changing, will not last long. That is, the only alternative to change and progress is—is death. It may be with the—with the world being condensed by rapid transportation, there'll be even less divergence of the two languages than ever, but I would say that—that there will be—be a change, and in time, there will be just as much difference between the English English and American English as—as there is between classic Greek and modern Greek, unless both have been abolished in the meantime, and there's still another language that comprises both, which will also be in a state of flux and change and advancement.
Unidentified participant: Mr. Faulkner, do you think that an author is actually getting into hot water if he doesn't stick to subjects that he himself has experienced?
William Faulkner: No, no, the imagination will serve. You stick to experience and observation—are only shortcuts, but imagination will—will well serve. It's—it has served so many writers when they need—I think right now—all the—these books of so-called science fiction, I think of H.G. Wells' Time Machine, that there's absolutely no limit to what man can imagine, and he—and by—by using a few simple mechanical facts, he can make it credible. That is, nobody can dispute him if what he—he says holds together assuming you grant his premise.
Frederick Gwynn: Thank you, Mr. Faulkner, very much.
William Faulkner: Thank you. [applause]
[end of recording]