So you Wanna be a Writer? How Far Are You Willing To Fall?

The 9 Circles of Hell. How far will you go to be published?
The 9 Circles of Hell. How far will you go to be published?

The discussion

 

First off, I intend this hub to be an open letter to anyone out there who is trying to become a writer. I invite open discourse and am genuinely looking for feedback, the more the better, because the biggest problem a writer faces is his inability to stay objective in the face of his craft. As writers, we are too close to our art to be able to examine it critically from all angles, and without this ability to step back and look at our work from a stranger’s neutral perspective, there can be only stagnation. To that end, I hope you will consider the theories I present herein thoroughly and give your most heartfelt response, and in doing so perhaps we can all understand what it takes to become successful writers a little better.

 

This attempt at assessment was spurred on by my reading a story featured in Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine, pretty much one of the most prestigious magazines a sci-fi writer can get his work in. They were congratulating the story of a writer they featured who won 2010’s Hugo Award for short fiction. http://www.asimovs.com/_issue_1003/art/bridesicle.pdf

 

If you’ve a good ability to sublimate a sense of anger or outrage into more productive behavior, then I encourage you to read it before going any further, though it is not necessary.

 

Entitled “Bridesicle,” it is beautifully written, but the concepts presented within turned my stomach, which, given how my brain works, is very hard to do. I forced myself to read it in its entirety because I wished to know what made it so special, but the voice in my head was screaming all the while, “You’ve gotta be kidding me! This is science fiction? It looks more like an erotic sadomasochist’s idea of horror!” The violations of basic humanity and free will espoused within revolted and angered me to the degree that I had to spend time working over the punching bag in the garage to calm myself down.

 

Nevertheless, the writer made many thousands of dollars for writing what amounts to what is in my opinion an eleven page piece of domination/submission erotica. However much I may be turned off by such things, if I want to be a writer I have to concede that this peer-reviewed work was chosen above thousands of others. My own sense of morals cannot come into it if I want to entertain, but let me set that aside for now. Let’s call this moral issue Point One for future reference.

 

Seeking reassurance that this was a fluke, perhaps as some form of mind bleach to get the nauseating concepts from my thoughts, I went through as many professional magazines I could find in various genres and read through their award-winners. The supposed crème de la crème. Far from being reassured, I was stunned by yet another realization. I found they all follow a pattern, of sorts.

 

To make my next point crystal clear, allow me to explain a little about my work. My idea of a short story has always been a cut-down version of a novel, in which a cast of characters is presented, the plot carries forward to the appearance of a problem or hurdle which must be overcome. The protagonist embarks on an adventure in which he/she gains the knowledge, abilities, or plot device necessary to overcome the story’s problem. Then there’s the conclusion and summary or moral intended at giving the reader a sense of satisfaction in knowing the characters have learned something valuable. Whether said characters are in a position to use this newfound knowledge is what determines the ending. Knowledge gained too late is a sad ending. Knowledge from which one has or will benefit is a happy ending. This is what I understand a satisfying story of any genre to be at heart.

 

The short stories that win awards are constructed differently. First off, they tend to be plot driven rather than character driven, wherein the protagonist’s history or past holds the key to overcoming the presented problem, rather than anything learned by adventure or experience, which is omitted entirely in favor of wistful, half-assed reminiscing in between story events. The fact that the character can even overcome the problem tends to come down to dumb luck, or statistics. Often the same events have played out a thousand times before, but only in this particular occasion which were are reading do things turn out differently. In other words, rather than present a story in which Doctor Frankenstein is unique because he tries to bring someone to life, these writers are presenting institutionalized stories. Doctor Frankenstein is one among millions bringing people to life in what has become a thriving industry, but because of sheer statistics, it’s a given that the person he brings back to life that we’re reading about turns out to be a monster.

 

This can do one of two things. It can present a new spin on the Frankenstein idea without making people roll their eyes, because by institutionalizing the concept or presenting it on a mass scale, it makes it more subdued, so the reader knows that bringing people back to life isn’t the point the writer is trying to make, merely the springboard for his take on the concept. The other thing is it can attempt to force the reader to accept unpalatable or downright sickening concepts as a given by showing it happening at every turn. This is what “Bridesicle” attempted to do, in my opinion. By making it seem that the protagonist’s predicament was one among countless millions, it tried to get the reader over the fact that said predicament was more at home in some sicko’s erotic fiction than it was in science-fiction.

 

And, most importantly of all, the prize-winning stories are almost entirely talking heads. Without exception, the story boils down to some variation of two people in a room talking. And while the writer may do a great job of coming up with a way for that to seem more engaging than it really is, there’s no action and no growth. The characters are completely one-dimensional from start to finish, pre-equipped with the means to overcome the problem they face from the very beginning. Meaning, there are really two stories playing out in any short story: the protagonist’s backstory and history, in which the solution to the problem will be found; and the situation the protagonist faces in that point in time, in which the problem is presented. As such, predicting what will happen once the problem has been sufficiently presented is painfully easy.

 

If writing were cooking, this type of writing would be fast food. I never think to write something like it because it results in death by malnourishment. The closest I ever got to that was entitled “Strike Three,” which I wrote in a day as a quick middle-finger at editors. It was a way for me to rake them over the coals for their shortcomings, but, due to their own laughable obliviousness, they are now considering it for publication in a professional magazine. This fact only adds weight to my theory. This all makes up Point Two.

Violation of Humanity not equal to Originality

Not sure what's going on here. Certainly don't want to know. Definitely erotic and non-consensual if not outright pornographic. So why is this becoming the norm? And are you willing to sacrifice your principles in such a way to be published?
Not sure what's going on here. Certainly don't want to know. Definitely erotic and non-consensual if not outright pornographic. So why is this becoming the norm? And are you willing to sacrifice your principles in such a way to be published?

Theory: Point One

Point One in a nutshell is that editors and even readers seem to be mistaking the violation of morality, mores, and social taboos for a sense of originality. The story to which I referred did an excellent job of violating the protagonist’s sense of humanity and relegating her to the level of a piece of furniture, with all the lack of rights and choices it implies. This dehumanization is particularly popular in modern fiction.

Point one also states that the institutionalization of taboo concepts is used to take them from the realm of the obscene to something that might be considered edgy in a society too inundated in moral ambiguity to tell the difference.

Do you believe it worth creating stories which personally sicken and make you feel dirty if it means they will be published? Also, do you believe my assessment of Point One has validity? Do you agree, disagree, what?

Talking Heads

Two Croats in traditional garb talking. Yep, that's pretty much all the spin you need on a premise to be an award winner, it seems.
Two Croats in traditional garb talking. Yep, that's pretty much all the spin you need on a premise to be an award winner, it seems.

Theory: Point Two

Point Two states that a story’s construct must boil down to talking heads and a predictable resolution once you’ve reached the halfway point. Though it is against my own instincts and what I find entertaining to present a story which is essentially just talking heads, do you believe publication worth stifling your own sense of creativity? Again, do you agree or disagree with my assessment of Point Two?

I mean, sure, I’ve read plenty of stories that are so much more than talking heads, but none from debut authors, and even fewer from authors who were recognized for their ability within their own lifetimes. Lovecraft comes most strongly to mind.

Looking forward to talking.

More by this Author


Comments 27 comments

stclairjack profile image

stclairjack 5 years ago from middle of freekin nowhere,... the sticks

i'm not much of a writer outside of it pleasing me to do so,.. i have no illusions of fame, or even of getting published beyond the letters to the editor section of my local paper,.. but i know exactly what you mean here.

the print world suffers from the same creative vacume as the television and film world,.. sex sells, cater to the lowest common denominator, and all things are possible through cash, no christ.

its depressing for those of us who want to write something of substance. i know i'll never be the next hemingway, nor would i want to be, although i wouldn't mind a week or two of trying hard at the drunken creative adulterous likeable shtick,.. long as i can quit after couple weeks, and avoid the whole suicide thing at the end.

there are venues for liturature other than pornography rags pretending to be sci-fi magazines, its just frustrating also that if you look for places other than these you wind up at christian publishing houses.

i'm not the next scott hahn or max lucado any more than the next hemingway,...so in closing, i feel your pain on this issue and at least i feel a bit better knowing that i'm not alone in being sickend by what is awarded these days,.. and in answer to the overall question,.. no, if thats what it takes to get published, if thats what it takes to achieve the accolades of today's publishing/pornography world,.. i will happily live out my life in literary obscurity.

poorly spelled as always -jack


Jarn profile image

Jarn 5 years ago from Sebastian, Fl Author

It is daunting to encounter someone of such convictions. They are commendable. I wish I could afford them.

I have already decided that I want to become a writer, regardless of the personal cost. I made that oath to myself several years ago, and today I took the plunge. While disgusted with myself, I bit the bullet and attempted to put together something to which my every fiber rebelled. It was surprisingly easy. I have constructed the premise and penned the first two pages, trying to keep brevity foremost in mind.

In a cold and distant future earth, technological advances have taken a turn for the organic. Without the programming capacity to create a genuine artificial intelligence, human minds and brains are linked in gestalts to form biological supercomputers. In this story particularly, we look at the gestalt formed by the inmates of a correctional facility who are forced to carry out sentences long after their bodies have died from age. Our protagonist is just a brain in a jar, not even allowed his own identity when linked to countless others. The backstory is that in his civilian life he was an organ mule, his nervous system altered to allow his body to regulate and maintain redundant organs for growth and later transplant, seeing as the creation of synthetics has not yet been perfected. I haven't decided what crime he committed, but both he and his twin brother were incarcerated, and given that his brother was going to be executed, our protagonist smuggled his brother out of prison piece by piece. For aiding a fugitive from justice, his sentence was extended long beyond his death.

Without his own identity, his brain not his own, he became a data addict. And he goes into serious withdrawal when he is extracted from the gestalt decades later. The correctional facility has become the subsidiary of a pharmeceutical company, which rents out its members for their skills, either as experts, servants, or for memory engrams which allows abilities (playing guitar, writing, racing, computer programming, etc.) to be conferred on the paying customer.

Our protagonist is 'rented' by the district attorney's office to act as an expert witness in an ongoing series of cases involving the theft, smuggling, and sale of human organs on the black market, ostensibly because of the daring and herethereto unheard of human smuggling he managed while in prison. I haven't got much further, but between the hell of withdrawal, the opiate oblivion of being in the gestalt, wondering why his brother never came back for him as promised, the gestalt being decommissioned with the advent of cheaper synthetic artifical intelligences (meaning our protagonist is literally dead and gone between court cases), I think it's horrific enough. The issues I'm faced with are whether I can keep this under 5 or 6 thousand words and whether I can keep from vomitting while working on it. A happy ending is needed, perhaps one in where his brother is really working for the district attorney's office under an assumed identity (and face) and returns to him in the form of a great grandson once the statute of limitations has passed, as promised, to create a mobile gestalt of the whole family and return them to the sense of unity they possessed before their incarceration.

I am doing this not because I think it will sell, but because I sincerely hope it won't. Any thoughts you have on the story, providing they're not meant just to insult me, are welcome.


stclairjack profile image

stclairjack 5 years ago from middle of freekin nowhere,... the sticks

you posses a high octane brain that far out-paces mine, let that be my first statement. that said, i feel i must point out to you that your story line as it is to this point, has redeaming qualities,.. you have a chance to re-insert the human into a world/setting that has devalued it,.. i wonder if most will be able to make the intelectual leap, hell, i'm not sure i could keep up with it, i found my poor self re-reading just to get my brain wrapped around what you posted here,... you have the chance to explore addiction on levels the human race has only begun to encounter, and i'll bet the dynamics of addiction will remain basicaly the same,.. a wonderfull chance to re-insert the human again,..

without a doubt i would read it, but i assure you, i'd read it in a vastly deifferent manner than the norm. in all honesty i like the premis of the story, and alost gigled as i remembered seeing a news blurb this weekend stating scientists may someday be able to prove the mind contiues on after the body has died, wow, we might have a "soul" after all,... then we can sell that too, in the litteral sense rather than just the figurative one.

being a constant smartass, i must say, unless you can find a way to introduce some form of perverted sex within the gestalt, no one will care. your going to need to find a way to violently kill someone who no longer lives in the conventional sense, therefore making it very hard to describe the blood bath as there will be no blood. blood and guts seem to be very VERY important to our unimaginative visualy driven culture these days.

if you dont like writing it, you wont like the results, no matter the rewards,... and take it from me, theres nothing that i can afford,... i'm probubly gona loose my house in the next 3-5 years because of math that is beyond my controll,... i work a job that drains me creatively and emotionaly leaving very little behind to put into writing, so i play my guitar at night and write out of self deffense as i go to work, pay the bills, and measure my life in paydays and friday nights.

none of this was meant to insult but rather to connect to a fellow frustrated human being.

here's to a conversation that i hope continues -jack


Jarn profile image

Jarn 5 years ago from Sebastian, Fl Author

Thanks for the brain compliment. But the problem with a high octane brain is it comes rocketing off the starting block and throws a rod a hundred feet down the track. I get excited over concepts quickly, but lose interest just as fast, so it's always a race to figure out the details while I'm still interested. Likewise, the details tend to spiral way out of control, so that what was a 10 thousand word story ends up being the blueprint for a six novel series. (I've had to shelve that one until I can afford better research materials, btw)

Concision and brevity are not in my repertoire, which is why I force myself to keep up with the short stories. Hopefully I'll learn.

As an aside, I am terribly sorry to hear of your financial problems. We live lives of quiet desperation, knowing our days are numbered and they won't end well, drowning while everyone watches, too apathetic to throw us a rope. Sorry for waxing morbid, but I can understand your situation. I myself am permanently disabled, in a pretty fair amount of pain every waking moment, unable to work, and on my third year of fighting the government for the basic necessities of life. Had my family not taken pity on me, I would've starved on the street about five years ago. Unfortunately, the family isn't much better off, so we're all living on borrowed time.

But complaining isn't going to fix the problem, so back to our discussion. I hadn't looked at the redeeming qualities in quite such a light. Thank you for turning the problem on its head. I had wondered about the driving force behind the protagonist. He's got to go along with the legal proceedings, which will be largely omitted for lack of relevance, but why he would do so was beyond me. If he's terrified of being outside the gestalt, then the promise that he can go back in when he's done what he's supposed to fixes that rather well. It allows the opportunity to portray the addiction, and what ends up happening to him when the gestalt is decomissioned halfway through the story.

What bothered me with "Bridesicle" was twofold: the fact that the protagonist was faced with something amounting to sexual slavery, and that she had absolutely no control over anything about her situation. My reasons for being disgusted by the slave thing should be self-evident, but the lack of self-determination is a bit of a knee-jerk reaction on my part. Being sick and unable to earn, having options even so grueling and unpalatable as manual labor taken from me, has likely caused some deepseated issues. Hence, when I saw the society presented in Bridesicle was fine with forcing people into helpless positions for its own benefit, I got mad. Like Lou Ferigno mad.

So, the thing I find most distasteful about the story I'm trying to present is that the protagonist is just as helpless and was forced into this situation by the state at large. Any thoughts on it would be welcome.

As for drawing a crowd, the gestalt is run like a totalitarian machine, to the degree that its members are not even allowed self-awareness when contained in it (that would take up memory space that could otherwise be allocated to work. It's essentially an extension of the idea of prison chaingangs). But, while carrying forward with his addiction, our protagonist must delve into his past, which is hazy given that gestalts were not originally meant to be reversable. They're using prototype tech on him to collect his thoughts on throw them all back into his own brain, so things are very mixed up at first. So, I'm guessing auditory and visual hallucinations, memories imposing on the present, would be acceptable. And if this is the case, we can kill two birds with one stone: show the deep bond he once held with his brother, which is essential to the redeeming conclusion of being reunited with him, and we can show the process by which he smuggled his own brother out of prison (surgically, in vivid detail. As I said, it happened one piece at a time). That should catch the attention of the shallower crowd.

One thing that doesn't sit well with me is that the protagonist, by entering into a gestalt with his brother at the conclusion, does not overcome his addiction, but instead allows himself to be swallowed by it. Seems a somewhat Pyrrhic victory to my mind.

And, just for future reference, you're going to have to work a lot harder to insult me. Marine family, and they aren't afraid to rip into you if you overstep the mark, so don't worry about it. Speak your mind.-John


stclairjack profile image

stclairjack 5 years ago from middle of freekin nowhere,... the sticks

one mans addiction is anothers means.

i live in dial up country, i swear we've got one old plow horse on a treadmill just to keep the net on the air here, so chatting this way is a major hemroid... but must say, even though i'm not a good chess player, this game with a far suprior player has been more fun than shots and pool on friday nights. find a way to email me, you're good conversation.


Jarn profile image

Jarn 5 years ago from Sebastian, Fl Author

Will do


De Greek profile image

De Greek 5 years ago from UK

Hi Jarn,

I am surprised that you put yourself though the trial of reading that story to the end. I for one would simply close the book (or the site) and move on to something else

If one is willing to do anything for the sake of money, then the kind of writing which has discussed you will do as well as any other form of, dare I say it, prostitution. If on the other hand one enjoys a certain type of literature and wants to write the same, then one can only try. If one does not have the talent to succeed, then tough luck.

I think of writing as a type of swimming pool which I fill up with words I like instead of water. When it is full, I jump in and wallow in it, trying to use the words in there to make sentences, which in turn will become a story. Perhaps no one will want to read my stories, but I can tell you that I sometimes go back and read what I have written and sometimes I laugh out loud at my own jokes :-))) I simply want ONLY people who can laugh with me at the same jokes to read my stories. Never mind the money :-)))


Jarn profile image

Jarn 5 years ago from Sebastian, Fl Author

The brainstorming process for me is similar, I think, in that the points of the story do not come in order. I might have a middle-point, a particular line of witty dialogue, or the ending line in mind, and then the trick is finding the words to fill in the gaps. The opportunity to discuss it with people is more beneficial than I can say, as if forces me to take it from a conjectural and hazy idea to a hard premise that someone else can get a mental image of.

But that's getting off topic. I read that story because I believe there's something to be learned from works which the publishing community at large has hailed as successes, even if most of the time it's simply to learn why. In this case, the author covered subjects that I might have liked, but angled it so as to present the dominant/submissive relationship in a manner I found disturbing. However, I will not deny for an instant the author's ability to set a scene quickly, convincingly, and with surprisingly little verbage.

As for prostitution, that's a topic I haven't made up my mind about. I see no harm in catering to the wishes of the public, but must draw the line somewhere. Right now I'm just trying to figure out where that line is.


LiftedUp profile image

LiftedUp 5 years ago from Plains of Colorado

Ah! Is that how a high-octane brain functions when it comes to writing? I can see that. But, on the other hand, you included enough twists in your "Day At the Races" to maintain the interest for me, and as some of the incidents or details come to mind, they provide amusement again and again. I think of the despair over the lack of coffee, and of the chicken incident -- one involved the mundane, and one the bizarre. I am convinced this high-octane brain of yours can produce material you will be proud of, material you will be proud to have displayed, read, and talked of.

To address the basic question: No, I could not agree to write something only for the sake of having it published. I have a project underway which has been underway for quite some time, and my hope is that it will serve others as it has served me. I have learned, and am still learning, not only more about the craft of writing, but of life. The rub here is that I am not depending on this project for my financial survival.

There is an older author who spoke to just this subject of selling your soul for the sake of recognition. His name is Harold Bell Wright, and he wrote, among other things, a book called "The Eyes of the World". It is, in many respects, not a weighty book, but it might be worth your time to take a look at it to see his perspective. Excellence is worth fighting for.


Jarn profile image

Jarn 5 years ago from Sebastian, Fl Author

I'll be taking a trip to the library Wednesday. I'll see if they have of copy of this book on file. And thank you for the vote of confidence.


Ivorwen profile image

Ivorwen 5 years ago from Hither and Yonder

I read through the story you posted, and found it interesting in its own way. It reminds me of a si-fi series I began reading years ago, but do to circumstances, never finished. That was a five book set, but to make parts of it a short story, only the action would need to be cut out. (Sorry, I have no clue what it was called or who it was by.)

As to predictability, try reading Louis Lamour! I have never read anything so predicable in all my life. Romance novels are real downers too, if your looking for suspense.

I think talking heads, as you called them, can be effective, because the story is told without distracting details. And while I would agree that good stories consist of learning and growth, sometimes the answers are within. We simply need to act on what we already know... but then that is my theme for life: Do what you know and the rest will be easy. I've never yet to really test it out, since I have yet to use all that I know, but the idea reassures me that I can get started using only what I have.

Much of story reading, for me, is emotional. Do I connect with the character or feel with them? Would I make the same decisions or would I chose to do something different?

________________________________________________________

Harold Bell Wright's book The Eyes of the World is can be found here: http://www.fullbooks.com/The-Eyes-of-the-World1.ht... And the Guutenberg project has it also, I believe.


Jarn profile image

Jarn 5 years ago from Sebastian, Fl Author

I think we've run across a fundamental difference in how literature is viewed. I will probably sound sexist for it, but most female authors present an adventure in which the change and resolution the character makes is internal. The change does not come about based on external actions. I for the life of me have never been able to portray this, though I acknowledge that it's exceedingly popular. As you said, it's simply a matter of acting on what we already know.

The be the stereotypical male rather than myself for a moment, my answer would be, "Well if you already know what to do then it's going to be a pretty short story." The journey of self discovery is lost on us entirely.

Men tend to prefer fiction in which the resolution comes about because of events in which they are caught up. The stories are highly actionable, because they work through their feelings by projecting onto the outside world. It's looking out rather than looking in, and comes much easier to me. The problem for me is they are out of vogue, in as far as I can tell. I would reference gender bias of editors and agents nowadays in a previous hub, though I believe you've already read it.

For me, emotion is a tool. It can inhibit actions, making a character difficult to work with, or drive them along when logic would counsel otherwise. To this end, emotion is useful. What's more, the author must cater to the character's wants. Everyone wants something, and the character seems hollow unless he has his own goals, which don't necessarily match those of the story's plot. His attempts to obtain these wants, his failures, and the eventual resolution aside from that of the plot events are crucial in creating a satisfying ending. I agree that emotions are valuable, but for me reading is not an emotional experience. I can sympathize, I can put myself in a character's place, I can even connect should I wish to, but always when reading I'm asking myself, "What's the point?" And in that respect, I cannot understand stories driven by emotion and soulsearching. Maybe I've got no poetry in my soul, but it doesn't seem to be something I can quantify, and therefore something I can use.


Ivorwen profile image

Ivorwen 5 years ago from Hither and Yonder

Speaking as a reader, not a writer, I do enjoy both types of literature. Micheal Crichton is one of my favorite authors, and his stories are almost completely action based. Reading them, there is almost no time to feel. The suspense keeps one glued. Honestly, if I could copy a style of writing, it would be his, even though he is not the best writer.

Speaking as a female, even when one knows what to do, there are still many things to overcome. One cannot predict the response of others. One cannot know what twists a story will take, in getting from point A to point B. The internal strengths and weaknesses of a character are going to dictate how they respond to circumstances. That strength of character is part of what makes reading about Winston Churchill so interesting to me. He knew what needed to be done, and he did it.

As a writer, I am just now venturing into the realm of fiction. I don't have any preset ideas of what I expect my writing to look like or to do. It is simply story telling. Maybe when my first story is fully written, I will have a better idea.


Jarn profile image

Jarn 5 years ago from Sebastian, Fl Author

Perhaps I'm being too stiff in my expectations of what a story should be. I don't know. I do know that writing for my own enjoyment is different than writing for an audience. Knowing an audience has certain expectations, and that the story will be forced to compete with others, makes the creative process much more strict, and therefore nerve wracking. Maybe it's just me. While I recognize that some stories evolve organically, I cannot bring myself to rely on something to come to me at the right moment when I'm putting a story together. It must be laid out beforehand, and since a story's emotional involvement is so hard to quantify, it tends to be left out. This makes for complex plots, but, as you mentioned with Chrichton, very little time for feeling.

And I think we all understand what it's like to wish we were as skilled writers as he. :)


Joy At Home profile image

Joy At Home 5 years ago from United States

Jarn,

I've read through everything here I can access, including your original e-mail on this subject, and feel ready to discuss this.

I have not read the actual story you referenced, on account that something on this computer won't let me open it (the computer's not mine), but, I'm guessing it's the type of story which would only infuriate me, and perhaps start my nightmare cycle again. You know me, though, so advise me on whether I should try again, if it would allow me to discuss this topic with you more intelligently.

OK, down to business. I very much dislike the idea of writing strictly for money. This goes without saying, and I'm surprised you felt the need to ask. I understand that your situation in life is what drove you to consider the question. But - the whole concept shrieks WRONG to me. Not only because the top stories of today prove nauseating to you, but because when you stoop to such depths, you have chosen to live in such a way as to glorify the things that sicken you. You have, in effect, sold your own morals and soul. You have enslaved yourself, and when you even consider writing crap on purpose, you may as well be saying: you have no choice and no control over your life.

Conversely, I agree with Jack that the story you've outlined above has many points of possible redemption. You have inside you the morals and the sense to turn it to good, and use its nauseating points to bring about change for the better in your readers. I believe this is possible with almost any story. The Bible (I'm choosing to tie into our regular discussion) is a case worth considering in that light. It is full of horrible deeds of every kind - prostitution, rape, debauchery, murder, cannibalism, and bribery, to name a few. Yet, taken in its entirity, it is one continuous story of redemption and hope.

Now, here is something which Jack hinted at, but which has not been properly stated. I wonder if you've thought this over:

Morals worldwide are spiralling downward, and you can't hope to compete, unless you purposely wreck your soul. Christ said that this deterioration of morals would happen, just as it happened in Noah's day. I know you have the capacity to think dark thoughts. Nearly everyone I know will admit to doing the same. So that's not what I'm getting at. I'm meaning that unless you are determined to try to compete with Satan and all the powers of darkness, YOU WILL NEVER PULL THIS STUNT OFF. Even supposing you wind up with something that gets published, you won't be happy with it, and in the end, the money won't mean much. Money runs out. Even the fame you crave - getting your name out there - will seem rather empty when you know that the name you've chosen to disseminate is connected with things your soul despises. I am saying "you", and I mean it, but I mean "me", too; I'm saying what I perceive as being the outcome for any self-respecting person who chooses to go against what they know to be morally right. And it's a fact - if you don't respect yourself, no one else will do it for you.

Proverbs 22:1 A good name is rather to be chosen than great riches, and loving favour rather than silver and gold.

I have told you before, and I'll say it again, that I believe God will help you figure out a way to save your family financially - but He won't help you turn your back on the light.

In loving friendship,

Joy


Jarn profile image

Jarn 5 years ago from Sebastian, Fl Author

Funny how I receive the same advice from so many people I respect. But I am confused. I have presented the most reprehensible story concept I could conceive of, and it has been met with approval thus far. Is such a story what you mean by not being worth the trouble? Or am I incapable of stooping to such a morally derelict level?


Joy At Home profile image

Joy At Home 5 years ago from United States

Jarn,

I see that even if I have come across like a Sherman tank, you've forgiven me. ;-)

The story you've outlined above is perhaps coming across very differently in its details to us, than how you perceive them in your head. It is entirely possible that the story *you* are thinking of, and the story I am thinking of, are worlds apart. Afterall, what you've given is merely a story concept, without all the horrifying and dehumanizing details. And, I must state, it is unlikely I would find myself capable of coming up with such a story, in spite of that you've accused me of being smart. ;-) But, the bottom line is the same:

If the story leaves your soul feeling nauseated or uncomfortable, then you should think twice about writing it. The point isn't whether you *can* do it - it's whether you should.

But I feel that it may help you to know some of what I found commendable about the story idea.

For starters, I find it entirely plausible. For Man to abuse and take advantage of Man in such a way as to gain control of whole communities of souls is something that will probably happen, given enough time. The details you have explored are so believable that they make the story concept brilliant. They bring something in the distant, bleak future so near that I couldn't help but go, "Wow! What kind of brain warp [as in, "leap", not "twist"] produced this!" Now, here is the tricky part. While the story concept in and of itself is truly horrific, it lends itself to heroic thinking. I forgot who it was who, after coming out of one of the concentration camps, said that the main difference in whether men acted like men or pigs was attitude - but it's still as true here. So your treatment of the story almost completely determines whether it is garbage, or commendable.

I wish to point out something from my own writing. You know that dark fantasy novel of which I sent you the first eight chapters, over two years ago? Well, do you know why I haven't been able to bring myself to send the rest (apart from some details I'd like to fix, but feel I have no time for)? It is because much of the story is hard for me to handle. Literally, some of it has given me nightmares, and kept me up more nights than I care to tell. Some scenes were emotionally difficult to write, and produced many agonies of soul. But, the reason I have chosen to go on with it is that I know that the growth of the main character - the obstacles he overcomes to reach his goals and destiny - makes it all worthwhile. And I am convinced that the story will provide encouragement and empowerment to readers, eventually. I can only hope and pray that yours will.

(By the way, if you wish to continue reading the novel, I will try to send you some more soon. You hadn't gotten to the horrific parts, yet.)

I've thought of something else that you should take into account. Having to choose between being published, and writing from the heart, is not a new thing. Even in "Little Women", Jo began making a large percentage of her income by writing smut stories for popular magazines, just to tide her over, while she developed her novel. Fortunately, a friend came to her and asked, Why was she wasting her time and talent on such garbage? - and she struggled over the money question for a moment, then came to her senses and gave up her smut writing.

While you can argue that "Little Women" was fictional, many details of the story were based on truth, and certainly the details of the times were factual.


Jarn profile image

Jarn 5 years ago from Sebastian, Fl Author

Funny you should mention Little Women. It's one of the few Antebellum American novels out there that I enjoyed. But I always felt Jo's decision to stop writing her smut was inherently selfish. Indeed, she was helping to support herself with the money from said smut, but it was also helping to support the rest of her family. In giving up that source of income, she was willing put her principles ahead of her family's wellbeing. I would happily step in front of a bullet for anyone in my family. They are the reason I still live, and so I am obligated to do everything in my power to ensure their happiness and wellbeing. Weighed against that, throwing my principles to the wind is a decision I wouldn't hesitate to make. In that respect, my writing has never been my own. It is meant to serve someone else, as, in my opinion, all good works should.

That point notwithstanding, I see the sense in how the subject matter is handled will determine the overall effect of the story. Creating that unnatural aura of dread which so many authors seem to be able to do with the literary equivalents of a plastic straw and a paperclip is not within my power. At least I don't think it is. Feel free to contradict if there's anything I've written which succeeded in giving a strong sense of the supernatural/unnatural, my ego could use the boost. :)

And since a story of degradation is not something I think anyone would be interested in, it would almost have to be a story of redemption in the long run. Of course, I may just be overestimating what the average reader finds entertaining. Who knows with some of the drek that makes it on the bestseller's list these days? :)


Joy At Home profile image

Joy At Home 5 years ago from United States

Jarn,

I feel you've made a horrible mistake in mixing up sacrificing one's self, and sacrificing one's principles. You've lost sight of the eternal...if you ever had it.

I've given you my viewpoint, as requested, so I guess there's no more for me to say here. In stating your determination to go on and do whatever, against much of the advice in the various comments above, you have made the point of this hub null and void. I think you're shooting yourself in the foot, but I love you anyway.


Ivorwen profile image

Ivorwen 5 years ago from Hither and Yonder

The other night I watched The Crow, and it became very clear to me what you were saying about action verses talking heads.

It seems to me that movies and books have a lot in common. The basis for them is the action and the overcoming. While short stories seem to be more like sitcoms. You an watch one episode and be entertained, or you can get into the series. Either way, they are a lot of dialogue and very little action. Most of the action is traveling from one point to another or body language.

I don't know how this affects the moral dilemmas, or what direction to take your writing, but for me, it cleared up what type of story telling is called for.


Jarn profile image

Jarn 5 years ago from Sebastian, Fl Author

Funny you should mention it. The Crow was based on a short story. I read it several years ago. It began with the hero standing over the villain, who had already been shot several times. The villain claimed he was not to blame for his actions because he was as God made him. At that point, the hero crossed over, bearing his Colt 1911 as a totem with which he was able to maintain his identity in God's blinding presence. And when God refused to answer for his actions, the hero shot God. Things get kinda weird after that. Not related to our discussion, but still one of the more interesting short stories I've read. Still mostly talking heads and introspection, though.


Elefanza profile image

Elefanza 5 years ago from Somewhere in My Brain

Interesting hub. Point One is kind of tricky. As a person, I have values and there are some pieces that I can't read because it goes against those values. Male/female dynamics in Robert Jordan are icky and I can't even read Terry Goodkind without getting sick to my stomach.

Yet I think writing is also that place where you should question your own values and reexamine ideas you thought important. I don't know if you've ever read Antigone, but I'm thinking more in that mindset. Also, as a writer, I feel compelled in some sense to give reality to the story I'm trying to tell and this means acknowledging that sometimes characters do things I don't like. I'm still working out how to treat some of the trickier aspects of how I want to tell these parts of the stories without making the story some demeaning trite like what I see in some of the gimmicky literature out there. Sometimes, I think I succeed, and sometimes, I don't. It's a work in progress, I guess.


Jarn profile image

Jarn 5 years ago from Sebastian, Fl Author

Thank you for taking the time to comment. You bring up an interesting point. We talk about morality as if we're on the same page; I'm referring to we as a species rather than you and I, but are we truly? Socially acceptable behavior varies greatly from culture to culture. I'm wondering if perhaps intracultural mores vary as well. For example, I am enraged when a character is made helpless and exploited in a sensual if not downright sexual manner. Some people might be titillated by the idea, but still consider themselves intensley moral people. Does that then suggest morality is a poorly defined blindspot in our social structure? It could explain why people are never quite on the same page when rallying around what they consider to be the "right" course of action.


Christopher Floyd profile image

Christopher Floyd 5 years ago from Kansas, Oklahoma, and Louisiana.

Jarn, I took the time to read that story. That was the second "hitcher" related story I've read in two months, which is two too many. I thought the story was boring. It had its moments of quality writing, but essentially was not worth my time. Honestly, i read it because I wanted to comment here.

That thing won an award? Makes me devalue awards in my own mind.

I tend to write character driven fiction. It tends to be fast paced and usually full of action. Occasionally I'll send one to a lit mag that specializes in poems about floating excrement just to sit back and laugh at the snooty rejection letter I get.

"Do you believe it worth creating stories which personally sicken and make you feel dirty if it means they will be published? Also, do you believe my assessment of Point One has validity? Do you agree, disagree, what?"

I had a hard enough time admitting to myself that I was writing a horror story once upon a time. I could not compromise. If I'm going to write about a bad guy, he's going to be bad. For that reason, I don't get near those characters who would - well, I don't need to list things. If I get published, let it be because my story was entertaining. Your assessment was spot on, I think. I don't read lit mags anymore, and some of the trashier ones have gotten just as bad. Weird Tales comes to mind. Seriously, I would be embarrassed to have my work appear there. The sad truth is shock sells, and no one is shocked anymore. Amorality sells because it is a disguise for immorality. I'm not being preachy here. But I do believe this to be true.

Point two. Publication is never worth stifling my creativity. If some editor doesn't like my story but can't tell me why, I know a dozen people who know me and would love to read it. I write to entertain, but I write for me. Writing, especially fiction or poetry, is an art form. Art is subjective - but it is no longer art if it is impersonal to the artist. I am reminded of another talking head story I read in an old sci-fi magazine. It was actually pretty good. It managed to be character driven and had obstacles to overcome, even though it was about a cyborg being drawn back to humanity. It was the exception, I think.

I envy the old guys. Hemingway, Fitzgerald, all those ex patriot writers who hung out together. I consider myself a member of an unrecognized literary movement that I call Digital Exile. Not only are we living in a time where a writer's worth is undercut by technology, but those publishers who exist because of people like us are focused on either publishing the same guy's regurgitated work or want that cutting edge nonsense that catches the eye (BRIDESICLE!) but isn't sharp. I could just as easily call this movement of one Elitist Exile or Exiled in Favor of Crappy Fiction, but those monikers are too long.

Thank you for this hub. You expressed a great deal of my own frustration. I've actually had this hub up on my browser for a few weeks now trying to find the time to read it.

Just don't quit, man. Yeah, the big publishers have their heads up their ink wells. Some of us out here can think for ourselves and know what we like. Let me know if you get a byline, I'll run out and grab a copy. I'd like to read some of your work.


Jarn profile image

Jarn 5 years ago from Sebastian, Fl Author

Hmmm, not sure whether or not my work classifies as trashy, given that I don’t do a lot of lit work. Mostly the big three: science fiction, horror, and fantasy. I try to use it as a backdrop to present something that looks at the human condition as opposed to something just for shock value, though I can't say I don't like coming up with a good fight scene or something equally mindless. My book attempts are more grounded in reality; gotta go with what's marketable, right? But without money for research materials most of them are stuck in the planning stages.

It's often difficult to stay objective when you want to compete, you know? To my mind, the fact that I myself have written the work makes it automatically better than what someone else has written, and that makes it tough to compare. Without comparison, without trying to actively recognize what makes a story good and what makes a story crap, you can't improve your writing. That's my opinion, at least. So I guess I take the middle road when it comes to assessing other fiction; tough to read for enjoyment though.

Take Bridesicle, for example. The hitcher idea is something I never heard of before that story, but it already seemed old when I first encountered it. Likewise, the love story versus the lack of emotion given the protagonist's predicament made it come off really flat. A person who learned they were dead and sold into slavery would object. They would freak out, have a meltdown, and essentially assert their humanity. But that was cut out for the sake of expediency, if it even ever occurred to the author, and having no room for emotion and realistic human behavior is the first sign of a crappy story. The concept was trashy. But, if I'm honest with myself, I admired the narrative style. It was really smooth, it flowed, and though sparse it brought about some excellent imagery. I wouldn't consider it a saving grace, mind, but something I recognize I couldn't do, at least not yet, and so I respect that.

I’ve managed to wrangle about a dozen bylines; short stories only, and it’s all still semi-pro stuff. Kinda depressing how few professional magazines are out there, even more depressing that the sum total of my earnings over the past two and a half years would be blown the first five aisles in on my weekly grocery run. The links are mostly posted on my profile http://hubpages.com/@jarn . Online stuff for the most part, but I’ve just broken into a pair of anthologies and a print magazine, so I suppose that’s a move up. I would put a couple more links on my profile, but the update switched it to html formatting, and I have no idea how to edit that, so I’ll guess it’ll have to wait until Hubpages realizes most of the people on here aren’t programmers or I can care enough to learn html. Guess which one will come first. :)


M. T. Dremer profile image

M. T. Dremer 5 years ago from United States

I'm not good with short stories. In fact, you might say I'm horrible with them. I read and write more novels than I do short stories, and that's not meant to be a boast; I just find short stories difficult to write (condensing is harder than expanding) and unsatisfying to read (I want a story and characters I can follow for a long stretch of time.) So I might not be the best person to agree/disagree with you (especially because I didn't read the short story you linked to. Though, in my defense, I'm in a public setting right now and I don't think reading erotica is a good idea.)

But I found your hub very interesting and I thought I would throw in my own two cents anyway. For point one I agree that violations of morality and graphic descriptions are being used as examples of 'edgy' or 'original' writing. In my mind, this style of writing is perfectly valid, and should be allowed to sit next to all other genres and sub-genres of writing. However, I don't believe it should have a free ticket to being original or edgy. It always comes down to the story. You could write a great story that is entirely G-rated, or you could write a story that is entirely X-rated. They both have the same potential to be good and the same to be bad. So I agree that neither should be hoisted onto a pedestal. Honestly the only reason I think this is happening is because printed stories are struggling right now (short stories more than novels) so they're going to pull out any trick they can to get people to read, which includes shocking and graphic, 'award winning' stories.

As for your second point; a few years ago I would have said that no publication is worth stifling your creativity, today I'm not so sure. I don't make a lot of money, which is why I'm here at HubPages, and I've been writing my primary novel for the better part of seven years. As of yet, I have only made $200 off of my writing (throughout my entire life). The first $100 was for a contest I won, and the second $100 technically hasn't arrived yet (first adsense payout). So I feel like I've reached a point in my writing where I want something, anything, published and I don't really care what it is. As long as you have projects for yourself that aren't restricted in any way, I see no harm in writing material that is just fluff to make money.

Great hub!


htodd profile image

htodd 5 years ago from United States

Great ..Thanks for the post..nice

    Sign in or sign up and post using a HubPages Network account.

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No HTML is allowed in comments, but URLs will be hyperlinked. Comments are not for promoting your articles or other sites.


    Click to Rate This Article
    working