Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Stranger Than Fiction

I’m taking a break from the editing of my crappy novel and trying to get some perspective. Actually, I need to print out a copy of my crappy novel and have balked at using most of a ream of paper and who knows how much ink to do it. I used to print stuff at work but they have recently began frowning on that sort of behavior (meaning, they said stop doing it) so it's up to me. I checked out some print services and see that it'd cost me like $30 bucks to do it in town. Yikes. I sure as hell won't be doing that. So, I figure I'll suck it up and waste all my precious resources to print out my masterpiece at the house. It would probably be cheaper to just use Lulu and have them send it to me... at least then I could have a really cool looking cover or something.

So, while I'm dragging my feet I've been reading a great book of local history that has included stories of bodies buried inside buildings, shootouts involving the local business elite, of a local ice cream parlor that decided to serve oysters, and my personal favorite, the story of a guy who decided to build a street car line in the city without any permits or permission. When the cops showed up to stop the 300 strong labor force he’d hired a riot ensued which ended in with dead and injured men, and a standoff between city police and county deputies all trying to arrest each other. The guy who caused that ruckus ended up marrying Woodrow Wilson’s daughter and became Secretary of Treasury. 

But for a short time he sat in a small jail in Knoxville Tennessee for causing all that chaos. Great stuff. What irks me about all this is how ridiculously random all the events in the book seem to be, which I keep having to remind myself is just how real life is. So many of the real events that surround us are so implausible that if they were too happen in a book or movie then folks would quit reading or watching due to the stupidity of the plot. But then again, assuming we live in a world with around 6 billion people then those million to one occurrences must happen around 6000 times a day. 

Which of course means really implausible things happen all the time. 

I’ve received loads of advice on the topic before and the bottom line is - my character’s actions and circumstances must be much more logical than real life. Which really doesn’t make much sense considering that most writers are writing about unlikely things anyway. But then again, if my bad guy is walking his dog at night and gets ran over by a drunk driver and dies, I think a reader would feel cheated. Random stuff happens in real life, not in fiction. 

So if you want to read some really weird stuff, like the life of Tycho Brahe, then go read a history book. But make that guy the protagonist in your story and it’d be so weird that folks just wouldn’t be able to relate. If I wrote a story about a guy with a copper nose, who’s favorite pet elk was an alcoholic (that perished at a party after getting wasted and falling down the stairs) and that he died from either from poisoning, or from fear of urinating, then I think I’d have a sure fire rejection slip in my hand from every would be publisher in the world. It reminds me of those Sherlock Holmes vs T-Rex type movies that show up on the SyFY channel all the time now. A mishmash of ridiculous scenes that don’t really tell a story.

So, it's all a big lesson to me, I want to give the illusion of reality when I write, not actual reality. The real world is just too damn weird.


A Beer for the Shower said...

So you may be surprised to hear there's something on the rise called bizarro fiction. Some of the leaders of this new wave of fiction are Carlton Mellick III and Mykle Hansen, and they write about the most random, ridiculous things. That's what 'bizarro' is -- outrageous, bizarre, and completely random stories. For example, Carlton Mellick has this book called the Haunted Vagina that's about a man who goes into his girlfriend's vagina, which is haunted by demons, and finds a fantasy world inside. It contains skeletons, forests, and a weird looking doll that wants to rape him. Completely random, in bad taste, and honestly, I read it just to see what the hype was about, and it wasn't even written that well. But regardless, there's actually a market for random, terrible books. This guy makes enough money writing to do it full time.



Rusty Webb said...

Honestly, I don't have words for that. However, the thought that there is a market for random, terrible books brings joy to my heart... I've been working on just such a thing myself.

Nancy said...

Nice post and only too true. I joked when we thought Jeff had a brain tumor (along with my mom's cancer and my dad's Alzheimer's) that I could probably get a book out of it and Jayne said, "Nah, nobody would believe it." I think the author of Haunted Vagina had to be on some kind of substance. I'm just saying.

SariBelle said...

Hi crusader!

Good luck getting your revisions done. I've just started mine, so much work...

Lydia K said...

Hello fellow crusader!
Yeah, truth is stranger than fiction sometimes. I hear you about the printing pains. Just went through that myself.

Dominic de Mattos said...

Hi Rusty ... at last a use for my Tom Clancy quote:

The difference between truth and fiction? Fiction has to make sense!

Popped in to say hi to a fellow crusader :)


Rusty Webb said...

Nancy - your I agree with Jayne regarding your book proposal. No one would believe you.

SariBelle, Lydia, Dominic - thank you all for stopping by to visit.

And Dominic - Damn, that is a good quote, glad that you can now mark off 'use Tom Clancy quote in appropriate context' from your bucket list - and that I was able to play a small part in it.