About Creative Writing
The more I write, the more I’ve come to believe that many of the things they taught us in high school and college, except for the whole “earth is round” thing, was nonsense. Particularly everything they had to say about creative writing.
My home office is full of books on writing from that time (and quite a few from now) and those books are literally full of useless garbage about either (a) dangling participles, (b) misplaced modifiers, (c) the correct placement of semi-colons, or (d) finding a happy place in which to write.
Stephen King was much closer to the truth of creative writing in his excellent book ON WRITING. It is, by far, the best book I’ve ever read on the writing process. I’ve already gone through it, cover to cover, at least four times … and I will read it again.
Whatever you may think of the subject matter of his books, King hasn’t written nearly 50 novels, all of them best-sellers, by being the only guy in town to write horror stories or fantasy. He didn’t do it by strict adherence to Strunk & White’s ELEMENTS OF STYLE or the AP HANDBOOK, either.
He did it by being one hell of a good storyteller.
King could set a story in a sleepy town in Maine, put the guts of that same story into an enchanted car, write about an obsessive book reader rescuing her favorite author, tell it all in a story about a rabid dog, or set it around a struggling writer and his family in a nearly deserted snowed-in summer resort.
For that matter, so can you.
Because any way you look at it, it’s the same story. You can even add elves and dragons and trolls, or talking animals in the world just beyond the closet. It’s still the same story. And, surprise, surprise, it’s all about the story.
Be a Good Storyteller
I had the pleasant surprise the other day of discovering Guy Bergstrom and his fantastically witty blog about writing: THE RED PEN OF DOOM. I’m going to have to write and thank him … and I definitely think he’s a blogger to follow. In one of his many posts I was introduced to the late Blake Snyder. Blake was another one who took time to cut through all the classroom-taught traditions and nonsense.
In his SAVE THE CAT book Blake pointed out that it’s patently stupid to call FATAL ATTRACTION a domestic drama and ALIEN a sci-fi movie and JAWS a horror flick, because they are all the same basic, primal story: there’s a monster in the house.
I bought Blake’s book, but I won’t summarize it here and give away all its secrets. Even though it’s ostensibly about screenwriting, if you’re a fiction writer of any kind I would suggest you get the book and read it. It’s that good.