I was watching a review of a movie recently.
I read and watch reviews, but I have little respect for those that write the ones that are extremely critical of story flaws.
Simply put, when I see someone dissect a story, tear it to shreds and be a snot about it, my first thought is, “If nothing out there measures up to your standards or is worth a shit, then by God write one that is great and show us all how it’s done. If you can’t, then stop tearing apart those that actually try.”
OOOH! Now I remember what I was reading, it was a feminist tearing apart Disney’s Brave as being a horrible piece of shit. That’s what it was, got it.
Please note, I’m not labeling the critic a feminist, it is what she labeled herself. I don’t tend to slap labels on people, myself.
Except asshat, that one I throw around quite freely. Perhaps too freely.
Anyway, the saying goes, “Those that can, do. Those that can’t, criticize.”
Actually, it goes “Those that can, do. Those that can’t, teach. And those that can’t teach, teach gym class.” But never let the facts prevent you from delivering a good line.
So, I really liked Brave. And I didn’t understand a lot of the reviews I saw about it. Mostly when I heard refrains along the lines of “Tired old princess story I’ve seen a million times before”, and I kept wondering, “When did we see that same movie? Ever? Because I want to see those, too.”
Many reviews about it mentioned “this type of story.” Meaning the princess story.
And I’ve been looking around, and noticing other such terms and labels used in criticism. Talking about types of stories.
“Oh, this was a decent example of the buddy story.”
“Oh, this was a fairly boring version of the classic fish out of water story.”
It’s been making me wonder about writing, and where people are coming from.
This may surprise you, but I tend to be very analytical about some things. I examine beliefs, my own and others, I examine how things work, I try to get at the understanding of the why, in order to better appreciate the how.
I also write a lot. Some of this, which you do not see, is the writing of fiction. Stories. Stuff what I done put on this here hard drive.
When I write, I do not set out to write a certain kind of story. I don’t really even know about that stuff. I don’t chart it all out ahead of time.
I’ve heard before that there are no new stories, everything has been done, and it’s becoming clear to me that a lot of people have spent a lot of time doing the dissection and analysis of the structure of the story.
Perhaps that is what some folks think it takes to write a story, or maybe it’s what critics use to prove something isn’t original, by comparing it to similar things the author might never have even heard of. Who knows. Maybe it’s very helpful to know what everyone thinks are the only types of stories in existence, so you can choose which one you’re doing this time. Again, really? Okay, I’m not that educated, what do I know. I’m winging it every day, what do I really know.
When I write a story, it’s because I get an idea for something that seems cool to me, including a vision of the people or personalities involved. I want to know more about that story, so I write about it. If it turns into one of these tired old devices, then that’s just the way it works out.
Just because that’s how I’ve been doing it, doesn’t mean I can’t try something else.
What if I actually tried to write a story the way critics describe them?
What if I picked a format, and then intentionally tried to write a story like that?
That’s when I thought to myself, “I haven’t seen fresh creative writing from some of my blogging friends in, like, forever. This feels like a joint venture. Writing challenge time!”
So here is the challenge.
You pick a type of story, and then once you have the type picked out, write a short story of that kind. Then critique yourself.
How did writing that way feel? Was having a structure or framework in mind helpful to you in bringing the story to life, or did you feel restricted or hemmed in by self-imposed rules?
I am going to pick the fish out of water type, and if you’d like to do the same, go for it. Or pick any other type of story structure that suits your fancy.
I am going to sit down at some point this weekend, and try to intentionally write a fish out of water style short story.
When I’m done, I’ll post it here along with my own self-critique.
See, the thing is, I think critics are full of shit. I don’t believe that writers sit down and go all coldly analytical about what they’re going to write about, create flowcharts and graphs, count numbers of male characters versus female characters, brown lizard people versus green lizard people, dogs of small size versus dogs of large size, numbers of night time scenes versus daytime, inclusion of types of food or whatever the hell kind of bullshit I read about.
I think writers get a story stuck in their head, and sit down to get it the hell out of there and onto a surface, any surface where they can look at it in peace.
Maybe I’m crazy. Maybe most writers do sit down and graph everything out in advance, try to write something to cater to a particular audience, then go back and flesh it out.
Really, what the hell do I know? I just peck at the keys, and you can tell I’m a Druid by how well I can mangle.
If you’re interested in taking part, just for fun, I think it would be great to see some more of the wonderfully creative, powerful writing that I saw last time we did a challenge. I also think there is a good chance I’ll learn something new from this exercise, about myself and my writing. So, fuck it, it’s worth it for that alone.
As always, if you do write something, please let me know so I can link to it and feature you here.
P.S. Just to be clear, it doesn’t have anything at all to do with World of Warcraft. Whatever inspiration guides you… once you pick a structure, that is.
I’m actually leaning towards doing a storytime. It’s been a long, long time since I’ve done up a proper storytime. We’re about due for more personal anecdotes and embarrassment around here.