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I Should Be Reading…

January 27, 2011

I should be reading, but I’m not.  As my sister would say, I just don’t have the brain power to devote to that today.  In large part because I was up til past midnight trying to figure out how to include my paltry $65 of book royalties on my Federal tax return.  (Thanks Amazon for providing no guidance on that at all!)  I should probably go talk to a real tax accountant.

Anyway, part of my whine yesterday was wondering what I should write this year.  It got me thinking of an inventory of my skills–or lack thereof–and how that relates to certain genres.  I think I can summarize what I like to do and what I don’t like to do fairly easily.  I’d like to call them “strengths” and “weaknesses” but they’re probably all weaknesses.

Let’s do the positive stuff first.

The Do’s

  • Character development:  I love getting inside characters’s heads and coming up with backstories for them, which I will often include to the point of excess, as happened here.  I think it’s because I like to play armchair psychologist and analyze people.  Really I might have gone into psychology except that would involve talking with people a lot, which I hate.
  • Dialogue:  Here especially I don’t want to call it a “strength” because I’m not Elmore Leonard or anyone like that when it comes to dialog.  But I do enjoy having characters talk to each other–and in many cases yell at each other.  Just for the love of God don’t ask me to do accents or anything like that.  Argh.
  • SEX!:  I had to include that what with previous entries dealing with my many different ways of including sex in stories.  Though probably the lead-up to and aftermath of sex are more interesting than the actual mechanics of it.

The Don’ts

  • Poetic Description:  I’m a Midwestern pragmatist, so if you ask me to describe a summer day, I’ll say:  “It was hot and humid.”  And also I might say I went to the beach (not likely) or a movie or something to cool off.  (Or more likely I went to Panera Bread to write a couple chapters.)  I won’t give you a Shakespearean sonnet about how the sun looked and the grass smelled and how azure the sky was and how majestic the clouds and blah, blah, blah.  Whenever I’m doing something “literary” I always feel inadequate in this area.  It’s actually one reason why John Irving is my favorite literary writer over say John Updike, because Irving’s not as good with the poetic descriptions and such.
  • Action Scenes:  Back in the old days I enjoyed the action scenes a lot more.  But nowadays I really dread having to write a fist fight or car chase or whatever.  When writing the Scarlet Knight stories I was obligated to throw in a few of those into every story, some of which I noticeably mailed in.  A superhero at some point has to kick someone’s ass, but it’s usually kind of boring.  Maybe in part I got a lot of that out of my system when I was younger.  Another part of it is that during a fight or a car chase there’s no character development going on.  There’s nothing really deep about a slugfest or car chase because generally the only emotions are fear or anger.  Like sex it’s leading up to or after the action that we can get back to growing the characters.  (See “The Empire Strikes Back” as an example.  Only after the big lightsaber duel–which admittedly I love–did we get to the big emotional stuff about Vader being Luke’s father and so forth.)  Actually what I should do is get a co-author who likes doing that stuff.  Then I can call him/her out of the bullpen when it’s time for someone to fight.
  • Research:  Actually I don’t mind looking stuff up; I like learning new things.  I just don’t like to stop what I’m doing to do so.  I like to keep moving forward so I can maintain something close to sanity.  Also when I do research something then I have a tendency to show off what I’ve learned, which usually leads to gratuitous descriptions of a place or event or item.

As far as the Don’ts go, I’m not sure I need to work on improving those.  Maybe I should just try to write stories that minimize needing any of those.  The hard part is finding something that would allow that.  I could write Fantasy/Sci-Fi that wouldn’t require research or poetic description, but I’d probably have to throw some action in there.  Literary I need the poetic description and probably research.  Really most everything would require at least some research.  Damn it.

But they say admitting a problem is the first step to finding a solution.  Too bad it’s not the last step.

Until next time…


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