Moorishgirl is reporting from Breadloaf. The Charles Baxter lecture sounds interesting:
The crux of Baxter’s argument is that too often writers try to remain in control of their scenes, and shy away from letting characters act out their drama. He suggested that in art, as in life, people do behave in foolish and over-blown ways, and one shouldn’t be afraid to reflect that in one’s writing.
I don’t know if it’s true that writers are hesitant to let their characters go. In fact, I can think of any number of great “scenes” in literature. My favorite is in Act 3 of Uncle Vanya (trans. Ronald Hingley):
VOYNITSKY. For twenty-five years I’ve run this estate. I’ve worked and sent the money to you. The best manager in the world couldn’t have done more. And all this time you haven’t thanked me once. All this time, when I was young and just the same today,I’ve been getting a salary of five hundred roubles from you — a miserable pittance! And not once has it occurred to you to give me a single extra rouble.
SEREBRYAKOV. But how was I to know, dear man? I’m not a practical person, and I don’t understand these things. You could have helped yourself to as much as you liked, couldn’t you?
VOYNITSKY. Why didn’t I steal, you mean? Why don’t you all despise me for not stealing? It would only have been fair if I had and I shouldn’t be a pauper now.
MME. VOYNITSKY. [Sternly] Vanya!
TELEGIN. [Agitatedly] Vanya, my dear chap, don’t talk like this, for heaven’s sake. I’m trembling all over. Why spoil good relations? [Kisses him.] Please don’t.
VOYNITSKY. For twenty-five years I’ve been cooped up in this place with this mother of mine. All our thoughts and feelings were for you alone. In the daytime we talked of you and your writings, we were proud of you and worshipped the very sound of your name. And we wasted our nights reading books and journals that I now utterly despise.
TELEGIN. Oh stop it, Vanya, please. I can’t stand this.
SEREBRYAKOV. [Angrily.] What are you driving at? That’s what I don’t see.
VOYNITSKY. We thought of you as a superior being and we knew your articles by heart. But now my eyes have been opened. Everything’s perfectly clear. You write about art, but you haven’t the faintest idea what art is all about. Your entire works, which once meant so much to me, aren’t worth a brass farthing. You’ve made fools of us all.
SEREBRYAKOV. My friends, can’t you stop him? Really. I’ll go away.
HELEN. Vanya, I must insist you keep quiet. Do you hear me?
VOYNITSKY. I will not keep quiet. [Barring SEREBRYAKOV's way.] Wait! I haven’t finished yet. You’ve ruined my life! I’ve not lived, not lived, I tell you. Thanks to you the best years of my life have been thrown down the drain. You are my worst enemy!