Friday, April 11, 2008

On Writing

I’ve recently finished reading On Writing by Stephen King, a book he wrote about, well, writing. First I’m going to lecture you a bit on popular horror fiction, and then I’m going to tell you what I’m thinking of doing next, writing-wise.

First of all, if one more person asks me, “Why do you read that crap?” when they see a Stephen King novel in my hand, I am going to throw it at their damn head. And it will probably hurt, as his books can get a little lengthy. Maybe I’ll wait until I have a hardback copy of The Stand or It in my hands to try for maximum damage.

Although I hesitate to answer that question, lest I give it credence, I will give it a go. Understand, I’m not validating the question – it is a stupid question. But I will answer it. Why do I read ‘that crap’? This is why:

  1. I understand that crap. Vampires in a New England town? An alien spaceship in the backyard? Sociopath clowns that morph into other monsters? Believe it or not, that makes a hell of a lot more sense to me than your standard romance novel. Besides, I think the sociopath shape shifting clown is actually a lot more realistic than the dark, handsome strangers and tantric sex stories being peddled to us by our romance novelists. A dark handsome stranger wants to rescue me and whisk me away and then make love to me for hours while focusing only on me and not on himself? Riiiiight. The clown is a lot closer to reality, people.
  2. I like creepy stuff. Sorry - *shrugs shoulders* - that’s just the way I am. Things that live right out in the light are never as interesting as the things I find in the dark.
  3. It isn’t crap. Why do people assume that because there’s a monster/ghost/mystery in it, it’s pulp fiction crap? Have you ever read Dracula, people? Or Frankenstein? Or The Phantom of the Opera? These are beautiful, beautiful stories. King said it best himself, “… sometimes even a monster is no monster. Sometimes it’s beautiful and we fall in love with all that story.” He was right. And it doesn’t have to be ancient to have value. Pick up something by King sometime and then try to read between the lines. If you actually stop to look, you’ll probably find a great deal of value. I find that the monsters are never the really scary parts of the books, anyway. Carrie White’s telekinesis has never scared me as much as Carrie White’s mother. Leland Guant, our satanic peddler from Needful Things, never scared me as much as the way that book makes me re-examine my consumerism and understand how easy it is for the things that I own to own me. You can look at the cover and decide it’s crap or you can read it and just look for the monsters and decide it’s crap… or you can read it for the whole story and find something beautiful hiding inside. It’s up to you. But it isn’t crap. I don’t read crap.

So there’s my little popular horror fiction lecture. If you forget and ask me why I read that crap, I can guarantee you something will be flying at your head, and it will probably be nice and heavy – at least 400 pages.

Anyways, I finally finished On Writing. It’s pretty good, and quite helpful if one wants to, I don’t know, write for a living. It focuses on writing fiction, which I have never done. I’ve always figured that I’m not any good at fiction. I can write the stories I know. I can put down the things I’ve experienced. But making something up? I suck at it.


I guess I’ve never really tried, have I?

So here’s what we’re going to do: I’ve decided to give fiction a try. What’s the worst thing that could happen? Well, I could find out that I actually do suck at it. No major loss there, as that’s what I’ve thought for the previous 26 years of my life.

If the worst thing that could happen is that I could confirm that I suck at it, I think it’s a safe enough venture. So I’ve put myself to the task: I’ve been working on a short story, committing myself to writing at least 1,000 words a day. I know this is a pathetically small amount, but bear with me. I’m just learning and I have a day job to tend to as well. I just finished my first short story this week and it will be up for review at our next Tuesday Night gathering. I’m anxious to see what everyone thinks, but I’m already getting started on an idea for a second story. I’ll be sure to keep you posted.

Aside from inspiring me to try my hand at fiction, this book also gave me a good deal of entertainment. King said that he once taught a course at the University of Maine in which he had a great deal of student athletes and cheerleaders as students. He was tempted to ask them to write an essay titled “If Jesus Were My Teammate”, but was held back only by the fact that he imagined that most of them would eagerly and quite seriously take to the task. This strikes me as completely hilarious and kind of makes me wish he’d done it, just so we could hear what came of it. Perhaps I’ll try my hand at such an essay. It would be difficult, as I was never an athlete or cheerleader (this is probably why the whole idea seems so damn funny to me, although I supposed I alter it to ‘If Jesus Played Opposite Me in the Spring Musical’ and it would still be equally ridiculous), but I wonder if I could pull it off. If any of you out there would like to give it a try, let me know. I’ll happily review your composition. I’ll give extra points for anyone who can successfully make Jesus his/her ‘sidekick’ on a team or incorporate every one of the disciples into a chorus line.

Good luck, and happy writing!

1 comment:

crimsonwhiskey said...

I have a very close friend who is writing a fictional book, not so much in the hopes of having it published (but who wouldn't like that anyway??) but more-so just to prove to herself that she can do it. I'm not much into writing about anything other than my own ridiculous life antics. But if possible, could I read your fictional story? I don't get to come to the Tuesday nights anymore, but you can email or myspace me. Take care!