Monday, September 17, 2012

Breaking the rules & Bull nuggets.

I'm writing this post despite that I said I wouldn't come 'round here 'gain 'til finishing the second draft (spoken like a western).
But we've already established my blog is way too cool for rules.

I was texting back and forth with my 13 year old brother the other day.  He sent me a detailed text as to why he hadn't done something he had meant to do earlier.  It stank faintly of BS.
So to his tale I replied, "I'm stoopid.  So I beleev yu."
He said, "What part of the text didn't you believe?"
This got me thinking.  I didn't know specifically.  The whole thing just felt dishonest... too many details over way too arbitrary a subject, especially from one who can't even remember bigger details like what he ate for supper the night before and who all was there at the table.
So my initial response was going to be, "I'm not going to put forth any effort determining what part of your story was true or what wasn't.  There's really no way for me to know for sure."
Instead I (like I usually do) came up with an analogy for him.  I said, "If you watch someone make a big pot of chilli and it looks delicious... but then they drop one nugget of bull crap in it, would you eat a bowl of it?  Or even a single bite?"
Of course he, being who he is, said, "I would eat the whole pot of it with my hands tied behind my back"
So I ignored and continued, "Of course not.  Despite that the chilli looks and smells great, you know there's one turd nugget in the mix and that's enough to ruin the whole pot."

By now you're grossed out.  I'm sorry.  I really do have a point.

This got me thinking even further.  I haven't pitched my first manuscript to an editor or agent yet.  But when I do, I won't consider it the first time.  I started pitching stories as a child and continued from then on, until I matured enough to recognize the value of the truth.
I pitched my first stories to my parents, after destroying something of theirs.
Then to my teacher after punching another kid in the face.
Then to the cops after... let's stop here.
My point is, each time I pitched to them a story, it was of my own creation.  I was submitting it to them to review and examine.  Some stories passed with flying colors.  Some stories crashed and burned.

Because of this I think I have adjusted my way of thinking.  We writers aren't just trying to pitch a "great book" or "good story idea" to the agent / publisher.

We're trying to convince them this story is real.

And if it isn't real for us, at least for a time, it's not going to be real for anyone else.


  1. Not sure I'll be eating chili anytime soon! lol! Funny. Thanks for the laughs.

    1. I've noticed the analogy / metaphor has to really stand out for my brother to remember it.
      Luckily, this comes easy for me... And so does grossness apparently.

  2. I'll turn down the dinner invite.

    I like the idea of it being real. It's a matter of belief. If you don't believe it, then nor will anyone else.

    1. I absolutely believe this. If a passage in a book is meant to call down an emotion on us, I think the writer needs to at least be capable of the emotion the passage is meant to exude.

  3. Indeed! Fine line between psychosis and good writer... ;)

    1. True. A writer really has to identify and sympathize well with personified conjurations of his imagination. And exactly how much of a conscious choice this identification is may determine their level of psychosis :)

  4. You are right! The landscape or world of the story, the novel, the poem, has to hold up. It can be outrageous, fantasy, etc ... but each bit of it must be completely true to that world. We know it when we read it (especially in other's work) and developing that bullshit detector for our own work is crucial.
    an aside: as soon as I wrote the word 'crucial' I was saying it in my mind with Scotty from Star Trek's voice. Weird.

    1. Aye, et is cr-r-r-rucial!
      I think story tellers may have a better BS detector than others.


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