Art or Craft – which matters?


It’s rounding on ten o’clock at night and I just saw this:

23. Storytelling Is The Art, Writing Is The Craft
Writing matters. It has rules. It can be artful or utilitarian, it can be languid or merciless. But it’s just the vehicle. We keep coming back to the authors we love — Atwood to Gaiman, King to Morrison — not merely because of the quality of their prose but because their stories are engaging. It’s the stories that matter. The art lives in the story. It’s the hardest and most essential part — you can write beautifully, but if the story there doesn’t sing, fuck you. The opposite is also (usually) true: the writing can be execrable, but as long as the story grips us by the nipples, we’ll buy the ticket and take the ride — and we’ll beg you for more when we’re done.

Chuck, you’re right.

Damn.

I talked about this with my brother several weeks back. We both came to writing in our lives, but for different reasons. I came to writing because I am in love with language. He came to writing because of story. We both write, but for disparate areas of focus. In this regard, I must confess that I disdain the fact that people with ugly prose still get the girls because their stories are the hit of the parade.

Don’t get me wrong; it makes sense. If Harry Potter just opened up by talking about a guy named Harry who wore glasses and was almost a teenager and wasn’t sure what to do with his life or who his friends were and was mediocre when it came to school, but he was okay at it and……

… If that were the case, that book would end up in someone’s fire or toilet paper stand. There has to be progression. Yes, I get that. You have to have something happen. In fact, it’s best if you have a whole shit ton of things happen, each one throwing the reader off, but still making sense. And on and on et cetera..

Yeah, I get it. I just think there should be something said for good writing as well. Not that it can only be good writing, because again, if your “good-writing” about nothing, then you’re giving you’re giving your keyboard a hand job, and yes, you write, but what’s the point? I’m talking about writing a good story AND you know how to write good prose. There has been a sizable handful of books which I have put down (against the raging applause of the masses on how good the story is) because I just couldn’t take the writing anymore. My go-to story is always Sanderson’s Mistborn. I got 400 pages into that book and I had given a liberal dose of grammar and good prose passes (subjective, yes, but aren’t all books subjective when they’re in individual hands?). I had to put it down.

The masters out there are masters of both. They know how to use their craft and make (as Gaiman says) good art.

I agree with you, Chuck. I don’t think it’s right necessarily, but c’est la vie. The point is, write. Writers write. As much as my readerly self doesn’t like shit prose, my writerly self lauds the fact that at least they made it to the shelf of readership. What does that say about the masses and literature? I don’t know. No, it’s not England in the 1800s anymore and this is not the literate society Simon Winchester mentioned in the beginning of The Meaning of Everything.

They want story. You’re a writer. Give them a goddamn story. Even if it’s not the story they want. Your job is to make a story. Write like a cracked-out booknana-lovin’ monkey, and give them a fucking story.

-lp

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S – Town (*a cast for Serial fans) NO SPOILERS


If you’re a podcast person, you may want to check this one out.

Let’s start that one over. If you’re a podcast fan and you enjoyed the podcast called Serial (click here for link) (made by Sarah Koenig last year), you will enjoy this new podcast called S-Town (or Shittown), done by Brian Reed along with This American Life.

I’m not going to ruin any of it for you because I just don’t like spoilers. I’m not into making deadlines for something. For example, if a show has been out for 12 years and now the fans just want to start talking openly about it, I think that’s shitty. I don’t care if it’s been out for five minutes or five decades. If I haven’t seen it, don’t talk about it. This is the logically courteous way to treat something that not everyone has seen/ready/experienced. Another example – Star Wars. I haven’t watched any Star Wars movie since the originals (Episode 4, 5, and 6). But when The Force Awakens was released, Harrison Ford went on the the talk show with Jimmy Falon (The Late Show?) and spoiled something HUGE.

Not a fan.

So, no. No spoilers. But I will be giving a quick couple lines of gist. If you’re not into that, please do not read below.

Here’s the gist (super fast)

Brian Reed, a reporter for This American Life, goes to a small town in Alabama to find out more about the lives of some of the people down there, and how they all revolve around one particular man, John B. McLemore, a highly-intelligent clockmaker.

That’s it. That’s the basics of it. But, if you liked Serial, you may very much enjoy this story. It’s not so much …nah, I won’t go there.

It’s called S-Town (click here). Just check it out. You really might like it.

lp

Balls


by

L.P. Stribling

    “Okay, now do you believe me? She had me by the balls, Frank. And I mean that quite literally. Balls. All of my balls in all of her decrepit granny paws.” Bart took another chomp of his double-bacon cheeseburger and chewed while he spoke, symmetric specks of grease glistened on either side of his mouth under the neon pulse of the late-night Burger Bobby joint. The blue bill of his Pepsi hat seemed to bob upon his forehead as his animations grew. Frank sat across from him smoking, his eyes half closed, blinking mildly to keep out the easy wisps from a fresh pack of Kools.

    “Seriously. I don’t have to tell you now because you know, and I don’t want to keep talking because it’s a waste of my breath and a waste of your time, but no shit, that’s the girl.  That’s the fucking girl!” His eyes bulged at Frank as he rapped his index finger several times firmly on the cheap plastic of their table. They were the only customers in the Burger Bobby at 3:00 a.m. According to Bart, it was the best time to go. Best lighting, best place for conversation, best food (if you knew what to order), and the best place to talk about why you should not listen to anything a devil grandma waitress tells you about going home to meet her daughter.

    “Okay, again, and I know this doesn’t really make a difference, but I was drunk. Frank, don’t you roll your fucking eyes at me. I know you’re judging me right now and that’s bullshit because you’re not giving this a chance.” He waived the last quarter of his double-bacon concoction stringently at his best friend as he promulgated his most recent date. “I was shit-faced so hard that I probably couldn’t have walked, seen straight, or pissed in a mega urinal without hitting the floor, but goddammit, Frank, what happened that night is not some made up bullshit drunk story. She fucking!…” he shot a glance at the register to watch the woman there look up at him and quieted. “She could have castrated me with her nails, Frank. FOOMP! Gone!” he made a sharp slice through the air; a tomato flew from his burger and partly stuck to the plastic of his tray.

    “Go head,” he leaned in to Frank who shifted his lips to exhale a misty white into the quiet air of the burger joint. “Go ahead and look at the girl, Frank, and tell me that your balls don’t want to duck and hide inside pelvis when you look at her. Look! …”

    Frank made to turn.   

    “Wait! Wai – wait, wait! Not now,” Bart said.

….

    “Okay now, look, now!” Bart said with an obvious air of trying to be inconspicuous.

    Frank turned to look.

    The woman in the slender tan Burger Bobby uniform was old. There was no getting around that. Really old. She was Egypt old, I-opened-the-first-Piggly-Wiggly old. She was Jesus-was-my-pen-pal old. Her curly hair was white from where they were sitting, but it seemed so in an unkempt manner. Some of the curls shadowed her face, others seemed to twist with others, ending up in knots. Even as she counted money in the register, Frank could catch a quiet glimpse at her eyes, and the salient hollows behind them.

    “Yeah! Picture that, my friend,” he said popping the last bite into his grease-ringed lips.  “Picture her at around this time in a dark room with her sarcophagus breath dusting your drunk ass, and she starts playing with your happy trail with her plastic nails, which, by the way, if you listen carefully enough, are also screaming to be away from her. Picture that girl right there with her hair all fucked up, wispy, and haggard and shit, and her wiry tarantula meat claw nails around your testes. Fact!”

    Frank turned back around to face Bart and shrugged before taking another sip off his current Kool. “Don’t look that bad,” he muttered.

    Bart’s mouth eased open in disbelief. Then he let out a giggle despite himself. “I cannot believe you just said that. Do you – No,” he said and but his hands up in surrender. “Nope, I give up. You know why? Because you’re being an asshole, and you know that kind of behavior, or whatever, bothers me.” He his same table-stabbing finger was in Frank’s face now; Frank smirked.

    “What’s the big deal, it’s not like your balls had any other plans that night.”

    “No other plans!? You serious right now? Frank, I was going to go back and bang her daughter silly! I was going to be a king that night Frank, a rex, the goddamn Pussy Prince of Peoria. But -“

    “She has a daughter?”

    “No!” Bart said, and again lowered his voice as well as his hat brim to his eyes while he slid down in the booth. He turned back to a whisper. “No! But I thought she did and, AGAIN…” he said the world emphatically, stretching his lips to their full extent. “I. WAS. DRUNK!”

    Frank nodded, took a drag, and nodded to Bart’s empty plate. “You done?”

    Bart sighed and looked at the same. “Yeah,” he said.

    “Let’s go.”

    The two walked up to the register, Frank held the bill in his hands.   

    “That be all for you,” said the woman. Her voice was a whisper of someone plotting on escaping their coffin. Bart turned and casually walked out of the Burger Bobby. A small bell chimed when he pushed the door open into the cool black morning. when Frank stopped at the register,

    At the register, the woman handed Frank his change and thanked him. Frank nodded and turned toward the exit.

    “Excuse me, son?” Frank heard the woman’s voice from behind him.

    “Yes?”

    “Should your friend want the same treatment as from the other night, you tell him I’ll take half off.”

    Frank cocked his head in response. He imagined it was much like his dog, Jasper, when he heard the microwave sound. “I’m sorry? Half off?”

    The woman nodded. “Yep,” she rasped. “And I’ll do whatever he wants. What ever.”

    Frank left without responding.

    Bart was leaning against the car, an old beat up Ford, when Frank walked out. He adjusted his Pepsi cap before straightening. “Weird shit, right?” He said.

    Frank didn’t really know how to answer at first. He walked to the driver side door and unlocked the passenger seat from his seat. “Yeah,” he said. “Yeah, weird shit. Get in.”

    The engine cranked over and grabbed the car. Frank put it in reverse, backed out, and strapped his seatbelt on. They pulled out of the Burger Bobby and their headlights blasted the night.

Prepping for IT


And I just watched the trailer for It, and damn, that looks pretty good. I have a certain way of seeing things when it comes to horror films (*and really it’s that I just have standards. Can you blame me?) It doesn’t count if the movie uses sudden movements and loud sudden sounds to freak out the watcher.

No, I’m sorry, that’s not scary; it’s annoying.

Anyone will jump at that kind of stuff. Ridiculous. So yeah, if you want to make a real horror movie (not a “jumper”), it is my personal opinion that you need to really build something scary as opposed to zipping a sudden jump-out-at-you scene. Session 9 does this well. This one looks pretty good. I’ve always been a Stephen King fan, especially after reading his memoir on his craft, On Writing. When I was a kid, there was a period of time in which I was on a King kick, reading several of his strong novels one by one because I couldn’t get enough. The first one I read was Misery, then Cujo, I read Skeleton Crew and one or two others. I remember one of my favorites was Needful Things.

Anyhow, back to the film. It was a book I had always heard about and have wanted to read. I think back then it seemed like just too big. The size was something that, at the time, turned me off since I wasn’t ready for something like that yet. But here and now, many years later, I would very much like to take on that challenge.

And, if you haven’t seen the trailer, you should. In fact, here.

As you know I’ve been reading the entire Wheel of Time with my brother. We just finished Book Three; incredible thus far. I know I’ve dropped the link before, but since I’m already in the habit, HERE IT IS again. You can go here to follow our progress as we roll through the entire Wheel.

Other than that, life is dandy. I finished the first draft of a short story I had worked on for a couple of weeks and it was a relief to get it done. I also had some great writerly friends of mine give me some great feedback on that story. One of those even sent me some of her stuff back so I could get a look at it. I’m slowly getting my way through it, though, good stuff.

Finally I’m listening to the serial podcast S-Town by This American Life. My wife and I got into Serial when that came out last year, and it was really good. But, you had to wait for a week for each episode to come out. In S-Town, all of the episodes are already out. You can, if you’re so inclined, “binge watch them.” I must admit, whatever little skepticism I had about this cast was dusted and washed away after the first (maybe two) episodes you watch. I can’t say any more that that. Here’s the CAST if you want to go ahead and try your chances.

Other than that, folks. It’s back to writing.

Keep at it. No complaints.

-LP