Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Upon Writing: Some Definitions

There are times when I read things... and some stuff... but mostly things... where during said reading I get annoyed. I don't know why I feel this way. If the grammar is sound and the structure intact, and heck, if there are a few creative adjectives spirited throughout the prose then what's my problem? WHAT'S MY PROBLEM?!?!? WHY AM I SO BUGGED!!!!

I found out why today.

First, I am an elitist. But we knew that.

Second, it's because I can tell when the writing is contrived. 

Contrived: adjective obviously planned or forced; artificial; strained: a contrived story.


The Kiss of Death in fictional story-telling... or writing anything in general.

It's a super power... spotting contrived writing.

No it isn't. Because you, you average citizen you, would feel the same way I did when reading something that annoys you for no other reason than you're just annoyed. And now, you have a reason. It's annoying reading something contrived.

Why am I talking about this?

Because I'm attempting to become a legitimate writer and I need to know if that's even possible. Legitimate writer as in... that's what I "do." It's my craft, my art, my "thing", it's what I want to be. It's like all those other struggling art forms; art, music, acting... where there is a rather small percentage of the population that are wildly successful practicing their "craft" without also having to juggle a 9 to 5 to pay the bills. How would it be to pay your bills with your passion? It would be like being Tom Hanks or Bono or J.K. Rowling. For every ridiculously successful ar-teest there are a thousand other suckers who attempt their whole lives to "make it" and never quite break through the teeming mists of critics, nay-sayers, and just plain old not having talent. That last one is the worst. How do you know you've got it? How much of that "it" factor is determined by societal shifts? (see increasing number of lusty vampire teen novels... gag). How do you know that you could be the next Steinbeck or Updike? We need a proverbial Simon Cowell to lay it strait for more than just angsty warbling teenage singing hopefuls. Open wide and take your medicine art people! You're very bad at what you love. Jagged pill.

Legitimate: in accordance with established rules, principles, or standards.
Writer: a person who writes or is able to write;

Therefore; legitimate writer: a person who writes or is able to write in accordance with established (metaphorically, unspoken, or recorded) rules, principles, or standards.

Thus I've learned, some of the annoyance I have from reading some people's (ahem "writers" ahem), though well structured and even adequately crafted, prose is because it's contrived.... forced... artificial... and strained. Is it in accordance with established standards? Grammatically... you bet. But writing is more than the structure; it's the story. It's the idea. It's the conveying of an idea that allows your reader to say "I know exactly what you mean!" Leave the grammar to your editor, dear writer. Your job is to tell a story!

Stephen King said in his book On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, that you should write the truth. It's a bed-fellow of the common writers guide: "write what you know." Someone can know a handful of things or a lot of things... but is it true? Is it true for you? Is it true for you character? Write what's true. I believe the lay-man/woman of all readers can spot an untruth... which is to say... you can tell when you're being suckered. It just doesn't sit well. I've read these contrived little things and may have even stretched my own writing to the point of annoying the hell out of some unsuspecting reader. And now that I know why a blunt pencil in the eye is preferable to contrived writing, I'm holding to ye old writer's precepts: Write what you know. Write the truth.

When writing fiction, you must write the truth.

Fiction: something feigned, invented, or imagined; a made-up story: the act of feigning, inventing, or imagining.

Truth: the state or character of being true.

Lie: a false statement made with deliberate intent to deceive; an intentional untruth; a falsehood; something intended or serving to convey a false impression

You see the difference, don't you? Writing fiction truthfully without sounding contrived or a big fat liar. Fiction writers do it all the time - and they do it well. Did a boy possessed of magical ability truly survive a killing curse go on and attend a magical school with peers of similar magical abilities so he could then save his world from the evil devices of a sinister Dark Lord? Of course not. But that doesn't make it not true. In fact, it's a beautiful truth that speaks to us about things that are believable. Fiction is making your reader believe it could be true. 

So I 'm trying to become a legitimate writer by writing a little of what I know and always writing the truth... and mostly avoiding sounding contrived... because I'm not here to annoy anyone. Truly. 

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