Why don’t you take a chance with your writing?
July 21, 2015
I HAVE A GOOD FRIEND who’s a really fine writer.
His stories are solid.
His characters are as believable as if they lived next door.
His plots are engaging.
His has the right number of twists.
He has a similar number of turns.
His mysteries are cozy.
His hero is as good as it gets.
His prose is precise.
His is the kind of writing that’s applauded by every high school English teacher in the country.
He may be changing.
He let me read one of his chapters a week or so ago.
It was different.
It was well written.
I knew it would be.
All of the right punctuation was in all the right places.
All of the words were spelled correctly.
But my friend took a step I had never seen him take before.
He jumped off into the deep end.
He usually writes with a lot of dialogue.
And his dialogue sparkles.
Now all of a sudden, his heroine is filled with self-doubt, angst, confusion, anger, defiance, and fear.
Her mood is contemplative.
She’s not talking.
She’s not acting.
She’s thinking, and she’s thinking deep and sometimes disturbing thoughts.
My friend has crawled into her mind and is exploring the deep recesses of an abyss where he’s never been before.
The inner dialogue is enlightening.
I now know the character better than I’ve ever known any of his characters before.
His chapter is as good as anything I’ve read in a long time.
Too many of the indie books I’ve read are well done but not memorable. They travel the same road and cover the same material.
Romance falls in love, out of love, back in love, and everyone lives happily ever after.
Mysteries have a dastardly crime, a sleuth, a few clues, a few red herrings, and in the last chapter the villain is unmasked.
Science fiction has rockets and far away planets and a strange, wicked array of odd looking creatures in between. Too many read like the next chapter in Battlestar Gallactica.
Zombies awaken from the dead.
Vampires suck blood.
And werewolves howl at the moon.
In great books, however, the authors left their own comfort zone.
In great books, the authors took a chance.
In to Kill A Mockingbird, Harper Lee’s attorney in a small, segregated, Southern town dared to defy the odds and conventional wisdom by defending a black man accused of raping a white woman.
In Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury burned books. He stepped into the future long enough to examine how the death of books would ultimately be the death of our soul, our culture, and our freedom.
In On the Beach, Nevil Shute was one of the first writers to end the world, watching as the last vestiges of the human race slowly wither and away die. There is no hope. There is no tomorrow.
In 1984, George Orwell exposed the devastation of mankind when every measure of a person’s life and thoughts are controlled by Big Brother, by big government, a rule from which there is no escape.
In a Clockwork Orange, Anthony Burgess created disturbing, violent images to comment on the dangers of psychiatry and youth gangs that symbolized social, political, and economic conditions in a dystopian future that was just around the corner. Burgess even went so far as to invent a new language, which readers had to learn as they made their way through the novella.
In the Old Man and the Sea, Ernest Hemingway wrote an entire book, even though it was a short book, on a man trying to catch a fish. Yet the novella has little to do with fishing, which is only a metaphor for his life and the life around him.
In As I Lay Dying, William Faulkner wrote a wild, flowing stream of consciousness from the different points of view of a whole house full of characters, He broke all of the rules. He violated all of the standard, accepted tenets for writing a novel. Instead, Faulkner wrote a classic.
As writers, you know what has been done.
You know what can be done.
You know what is being done.
So why don’t you try a different road?
Why don’t you take your story where nobody goes anymore?
Why don’t you do what other great writers have done?
Why don’t you take a chance?
It just might help you break out of the pack.
Caleb Pirtle III is the author of Secrets of the Dead. I took a chance and wrote a book far different from anything I’ve ever written before.