A Little Perspective From Tom Church

(I, too, will get down and personal in this blog entry)

I think most people enjoy a good story, whether it be by word-of-mouth or in a book, whether it have an insane amount of backstory (Recent Stephen King novels? Perhaps) or it’s short and to-the-point.

Whatever the case, I know I like a good story, I know Erin likes a good story. I know even my dad, who isn’t very literately diverse, likes a good story, more commonly if it’s historical and non-fictional.

And I write. Obviously; I have a blog. But I write, too, and a decent amount of my friends knows it. I write fictional crap, it’s all probably amateur (I have no way of judging), but I at least put forth the effort, at school and at home.

Not many people do, and I guess I realize that. Not many people like to read, and out of those who do, only a handful like to write, too. It’s tough, and it takes perseverence, it really does. I’ve written the beginnings of a story and have just let them rot before. I come back to them eventually, always, and sometimes I’m able to clean it up, other times I finish it messily.

Note that as I talk about these “stories,” I’m talking serious shit. Not the stories tab I have up on my blog; I don’t know if I’ll ever post a serious story on here. Ever. I feel like those are more personal, and I feel like finishing one up yields a great feeling every time. And risking any chance of it being criticized, or maybe just viewed by people I don’t know/ the wrong people, I don’t like that idea. I can’t explain why, but I’ll hang onto them.

These stories almost never start with an idea. They most commonly start with a name, or a person, and I give that person a family, maybe, or a job. Take the job. I talk about the job. The person is fresh out of college, supposedly, he’s a bright kid but he has little motivation, now that his education’s over. He’s working at a Safeway in his hometown and living with his parents. He bunks with his youngest brother.

I don’t worry about plot, that really comes by just keeping pen to paper, or fingers to keyboard. Once I start, it’s tough to stop. I think I’m developing juvenile arthritis, sometimes, I really do. My hands have shooting pains sometimes, long after my writer’s cramps are gone.

However, I’ll give you some tips on what not to write, based on what I’ve read:

1) Stories involving things that are just too nice.

I’ll explain what I mean. Of course love stories are nice, of course I like reading about a protagonist whooping a bad guy’s ass! Who doesn’t like those things? But it’s hard, hard to write or read a story (fictional or not, it doesn’t matter, it could be an autobiography) about a man who, out of the goodness of his heart, funded the creation of a charity, and frequently donates. About a guy who went to Africa and gave all of the things he had with him to a bunch of kids he didn’t know, and that didn’t speak English.

Do you agree? There are exceptions (like, The Bible, possibly), but it’s not like they’re ever amazing. I don’t go to the library and check out a book about some guy that gives up a life of material possessions for the betterment of his soul (Siddhartha!); that’s just not my style. I’m sorry if any readers like stories that are not true heart-warmers (they’re more like shelf-stockers, in most cases; if they don’t give you chills and they’re supposed to, then what’s the point?)

2) Stories about… nothing?

I don’t know how often you guys read, but if you read like me (or Erin, for that matter. She’s faster than me, I kind of just read in impressive spurts, and then settle back into below-average reading speed. Luckily, the spurts come frequently), then you will, at some point, read: A story about nothing. Nothing! It’s so pointless, it’s shocking! The plot is non-existent, and the character isn’t impressive or likeable.

Example: Whirligig, by Paul Fleischman. What was this guy thinking? The plotline (haha, this book has a plot?) is as follows: A boy hits a girl with his car and kills her. Then he has to ride buses all over the U.S. and build whirligigs, and put them in the four cornerstates of the continental U.S. as reparations to the parents. There is no climax. None. He sticks the wooden bitches in the ground and gets on with his life. The book was awful. Never read it. I read it in a day (which is uncommon for me, since I read bad books slowly, usually, and it was about two hundred fifty pages or so, I think), and when I finished I was so pissed that I’d wasted my time, that I tore the last page or two out and returned it to the library.

3) Fantasy books that aren’t good…

We’ve all got that fantasy series we like: Harry Potter, Eragon (well, the first one), Pendragon, Lord of the Rings, et cetera. All of them, they’re alright, you know? People like fantasy, people like shit with wizards and magic and dragons. I like shit with wizards, magic, and dragons. But this stuff is bad:

Eldest (AKA 600 pages of FILLER),

The Good Stuff
(which, admittedly, I haven’t read, but: Hahaha…)

The Spiderwick Chronicles
(they get worse as you get older…)

A Series of Unfortunate Events
(I call them fantasy because nothing that horrible would ever, ever happen to three orphans…)

Star Wars (continuations, fanfiction of the movies, et cetera… this also goes for books based off of video games…)

Twilight (I’m not bashing Twilight or anything, because I also haven’t read these. I wasn’t interested, really, I’d read Salem’s Lot [Stephen King] and was positive that I’d never read a better modern vamp story. Love and vampires don’t mix well, though. Apparently they do, though, if you’re a young teenage girl, because so many people go to the movies and they’re so bad. Cedric Diggory, why hath you forsaken me?)

-Thom

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Comments on: "A Storywriter’s Hands" (2)

  1. I agree, Whirligig was horrible, besides the first chapter or so. After that it sucked and moved at a snail’s pace. What a waste of paper. The main character, Brent, was such an unrealistic loser. He gets turned down by a girl and so his only logical solution is suicide? Come on.

  2. SIDDHARTHA.
    This is good! I like it a lot…writing. o.O It’s sort of our thing…
    along with the Crunchium Thief, bad movies, and being awkward.

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