Deciding what kind of writer you are is perhaps the most important question we indie scribes need to ask ourselves.
I watched Battlefield: Los Angeles the other night.
It ticked all the boxes for the alien-invasion-taking-over-the-world-ain’t-life-full-of-fecking-heroes-shit scenario. It had a Staff Sergeant who had lost all his men in Iraq or Venezuela or some such place and had to earn the respect of his crew by shoving a grenade up the ass of a passing alien whilst playing the banjo (the Staff Sergeant, not the alien) and eating a pack of spicy Doritos. It had a uniformly distributed range of ethnicity to suit all film-goers and a suitably large CGI budget for blowing things to kingdom come.
The aliens were bog standard mindless drones and somewhere in the plot it transpired they were being controlled from a central source (believe it or not they were hiding in a hole nearby, as dumb-ass aliens tend to do) so there was a chance for Sergeant Fantastic to save the day and the human race in one fell swoop with the aid of his, by the end of the film, bloody faced men. These included black-man-whose-brother-you-got-killed-but-who-will-learn-to-love-a-white-man-who-just-wants-to-blow-shit-up, as well as those adoring follow-you-anywhere-die-hard, fuck-who-sucked-out-my-brain marines with equally stereotypical lives.
Yeeh-hah. Hell, no!
I have to admit, I quite enjoyed it.
It went well with my red wine, Chinese spare ribs and Char Sui rice.
I could write that shit. Sure I could. With my eyes closed, while shooting fecking aliens, playing the violin and sucking the dick of the nearest horse whilst singing dixie (me, not the horse).
To keep the war theme going, I’m also reading a book. Norman Mailer’s The Naked and The Dead. None of the characters in Mailer’s book are really like-able. Whereas the characters in Battlefield: Los Angeles stand up as cardboard cutouts, the one’s in Naked and The Dead are 3 dimensional, fleshy, warty, broken, twisted and human. It’s a long book. But it has depth.
The characters spew. And I don’t use that word lightly.
So I ask, while flicking peanuts at the cheese plant in the corner, do my own characters have depth? Do I have something to say about them or are they just cardboard alien-fighting-ethnically-correct cutouts, the same as a million other genre characters that pretend to have flesh but are just poor cutouts on a well-trodden stage (see what I did there, I did metaphor…or is that an analogy…I forget…).
Here’s the thing. Writing shit is easy.
Hey, but writing is just writing, yeah? You put pen to paper and get all that crap out and someone’s bound to like it. Who knows, maybe in a hundred years it’ll be seen as a seminal work of fiction and people will read me in schools, if they still have those things when we’re all underwater stroking our gills (look, I did a euphemism).
Am I proud that I finished the damn thing? Or am I proud because it was damn good?
Any dick brain can write and finish a book. They just have to sit at their PC long enough and drink enough. But the thing is, at the end of that hard long slog, it’s got to be worth something, hasn’t it?
I was having a conversation with an old work colleague of mine (she’s not old, we’ve known each other for a while, I mean). I like a bit of photography but have gone off it since I went to Chester Zoo and every one had a camera. Flicker is full of photos. I have a friend who can actually call himself a photographer. But thinking about me, I have to have a reason to take photos. It’s easy to take good photographs nowadays. You just point and shoot. But your photos have to say something, and though I’m reasonably competent, I’ve never thought that mine said much. Got nice colour in there, nice posing, but hell, it’s just like everyone elses.
I have nothing to say photographically. I can point and shoot. But I ain’t doing much more.
Which brings me back to my writing. I know I overdo the angst bit on this blog, but it has a reason. Does what I write have any point? I asked my friend this and she countered with: but you’re a good writer.
There are a lot of good writers out there, there are a lot of good photographers out there. The point is what separates the best from the rest.
I’m not talking about the ones who write the most or the ones who sell the most. I’m talking about the ones that endure. The one’s, when we read them, we remember. Not only their name but also their characters and there plotlines. The one’s that are not just another book (or film or photo) but something that transcends, the one’s that stay with us.
So if you’re a writer think about this (and here I’m going to go back into metaphor or fecking analogy or some fecking stuff), what kind of hack are you: are you an alien drone dishing out the same old crap or are you the staff sergeant who’s going to blow-up the aliens sorry ass????
See what I did there, huh? See? And by “blow-up the aliens sorry ass” I mean with a grenade not mouth to ass…