Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Do you write? Or do you tell stories?

I have a confession.  I really don't give a crap about being a good writer.  I have no aspirations of winning a Grammatical Grammy or accepting a Diction Doctorate.  Honestly, all I really want to do with my so-called "writing" is to tell a great story.

I just finished reading Zoo, by James Patterson and Michael Ledwidge.  I'll write a detailed review later, but the bottom line is, it was a terrible book.  The plot was the antithesis of credibility, and the blatant disregard for rules of writing no doubt had every dead author in the history of ink rolling over in his or her grave.  But I loved it.  Why?  Because I kept turning pages until the end.  And while we are baring our souls here, I'll admit that I also made a few mental notes of writing techniques that I totally intend to steal.

But Patterson and Ledwidge cheated a little bit, in my opinion.  They wrote a book that put no responsibility whatsoever onto the reader.  No thinking was required, just pure permeability, absorption of the story and absolute suspension of disbelief.  It worked, and it made for a fun, easy, quick read, as long as the reader didn't stop to think.

This is where I differ in my personal aspirations.  I want to write a book that makes readers think without realizing they are thinking, because I want them to be having too much fun.  If the gods of storytelling ever bless me with such a work, I will consider the book a resounding success.  Critics and rules of the English language be damned.

The Vesuvius Isotope is nearly complete.  I think it's a great story, and I'll be truly pissed at myself if I fail to show it the way I see it.  Yet, the biggest challenge throughout the squiggly journey of its creation has been conveying the story in a way that makes it readable.  Because I'm all too aware that this story demands a lot on the part of the reader.

I guess that's where writing skills come in.  Crap.

How do you take a complicated plot and strip it down to the critical elements?  How do you weave together multiple sub-plots in such a way that readers can follow them, without consulting footnotes and a map?  How do you keep your characters in character, without creating a collection of one-dimensional stereotypes?  

I guess that's where writing skills come in.  Crap.

I guess I need to hone those skills after all, to continue soliciting tips and advice from the actual writers out there.  Excuse me while I go back to school.  Excuse me while I grovel to the Professors of Punctuation and bow to the Wizards of Words.  And please forgive me if I later disregard bits of their advice, because damn it, the story will be better that way.


  1. I loved your post. Write the story you have inside of you and don't worry too much about technicalities and/or accolades.

  2. Good point! I'm with you on that one. Love your site and your book trailer, btw. Hey, readers...check out Iron Fist above - way cool stuff!

  3. Well said. I agree - so many times those things inhibit the writing process. I found you on Book Blog and am following you. Please consider following me.

  4. Thanks A.L. Jambor... I love your blog (and giggled at your rant against dumbing down language for readers...)