Saturday, November 11, 2006

Don't Be a Sap, Give Me a Pitch

CDs in Play: Tortoise, A Lazarus Taxon. (Disc 3) Tortoise, It's All Around You.

Okay, I don't really want you to pitch me ideas. I have two story ideas I am trying to work out at the moment. I never have short story ideas, nor do I enjoy the short story the way every bloody Canadian seems to - so please, enough with the you should start with a short story suggestions already. (Apparently Canadians are voracious consumers and writers of short stories - so much so some literary types I have encountered in Academia and in the Vancouver and Montreal scenes have said it could almost be considered the Canadian literary medium) Quite often after reading a short story I can hear PJ Harvey in the back of my head singing Is That All There Is?
Anyhow, back to the matter at hand. I have two story ideas I am currently hammering out. One is a crime story and the other (which has shortness possibilities) is a horror story. My question is, as readers what don't you want to see in these stories. What would have me avoid in these rather well trod genres? What have you always wanted to see? Not that your input is going to be gospel in any way, but I am curious as to what readers expect or are tired of. I'll give you the details of the stories later if you are a friend o' mine, otherwise read them if they ever get finished/published.

"Is that all there is, is that all there is If that's all there is my friends, then let's keep dancing Let's break out the booze and have a ball If that's all there is"
Sorry, just stuck in my head now.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Whatever you do, just avoid the cliches.What have you read in either genre?

12 November, 2006 20:08  
Blogger Thoth Harris said...

Avoid yet another account of World War II. I think we've had enough of those.

What else? Ah, typical Canadian middle class coming of age stories have to be avoided at all costs.

Dreary stories about married couples, or about a housewife in which we read nothing but the kids or the children without any perspective on the outside world.

Perspectives on the outside world are completely necessary. Take that Alice Munro!

Avoid the insular.

Yann Martel's novel, Life of Pi was excellent in that it avoided the other "weird sex and snowshoes" kind of themes thave have been dogging us. Not that I like "weird sex and snowshoes" to describe this, but this seems to what Canadian have been reduced to. Any Canadian who somehow, in contemporary authos anyway, naturally fits into that mold, deserves to sent down to the 6 ring or what ring of hell there is. Or sent back to prison or whatever term in monopoly it is... (It was some Catherine somebody or other on CBC who came with Weird Sex and Snowshoes as the title for her book. I will will never forgive her for that and for other things, like being pretentious like you cannot imagine).

But in the longrun, I say good luck because writers are dead, now. I mean, you haven't a hope in hell in becoming a writer. Not you personally, but anyone new these days. All the writers of the future are maunfactured. If you want me to elaborate, send me an email. I'll gladly elaborate.

12 November, 2006 22:00  
Blogger Geosomin said...

My suggestion is to try and write a book where the main character is genuinely unlikable.
Hard to do.
Interesting to read.

13 November, 2006 15:29  
Blogger Thoth Harris said...

Hubert Selby Jr. has done what Geosomin suggested very, very successfully. He is one of my favourite all-time writers. No one compares to Selby. Last Exit to Brooklyn has characters' points of view whom you just don't want to see, think about, read about (not in the depth that he writes about). But Selby has a way of making your interested. All the same, reading the book made me feel icky and violated. It was very effective. The terrible thing is you feel somewhat sympathetic all the characters' whose views are presented at the same time.

The Demon, on the other hand, is my favourite book. The character is likeable and unlikeable equally. And you are saying to him, don't don't don't please don't do this. And we are all capable of what Harry White, I think his name is, is capable of. And it's this moral sinkhole that makes me terrified. One observes this ever diminishing impossibility for redemption and it seems all to plausible.

Brilliant. Read him and learn from him! I'm not that interested in his most fammous book (by now), Requiem for a Dream. Ho, hum. I know he Selby had a problem with drugs at some points, but it just all seems like it's been done to death. Selby is most brilliant when he isn't trying to be political (which he isn't necessarily trying to be in Last Exit, but the effect is there, all the same). When it is purely about the one human being you get the social stratum, rather than the less effective method of doing it the other way around.

14 November, 2006 00:28  
Blogger Magnus said...

Anonymous - I have read Ian Rankin and tried taking a stab at some other crime novels by person's unremembered. Aside from Rankin, I don't car efor the genre as literature, I prefer it as film. I do wnat to read Dash Hammett, though. As for horror, never read anything - just have an idea.

Thoth - send me the email. I know Montreal did a number on you, but I am not so jaded. The National did a story on a guy who wrote a book - takes place in the middle east and he himself is either of Lebanese or Jordanian descent - which came out of nowhere.
My tendency is to avoid the Great Canadian pitfalls, I couldn't care less about the national establishment and the artistes. My intent is to write well written, popular books.
Jeffrey once compared my style of writing to Tom Robbins (Skinny Legs and All) if that helps.

14 November, 2006 18:23  
Blogger Magnus said...

I should clarify that my belief is that artists - regardless of their medium - have an obligation to engage with their audience and try to draw people in. Artists cannot just write. paint, scuplt, shoot, etc for their own and the small coiterie of insiders who "get it". My objective is to write stories that people of all different stripes will find easier to get in to. I am not talking about "selling-out" or going commercial, just about being readable.
And yes, Ian Rankin's work has actually made me excited to read and write again. The chances of getting published are exceedingly slim, even more so when you send in an unsolicitied manuscript. Still it is in me to do something creative, and damn it - I need to do it.

14 November, 2006 20:36  
Anonymous Robert M. said...

Getting published is like winning the lottery just about. I was never published, tried at least 12 different manuscripts at least 20+ times each.
Not a nibble.
Maybe I wasn't as good as I thought I was? Maybe there are too many of us trying to be writers? But don't be discouraged, give it a shot. Canada's a tough place to be from, even here in Ontario.
I agree with Mr. Harris avoid those dreary, dysfunctional family stories. A story with a thoroughly unlikable character would be tough to pull off - even anti-heros require us to be able to identify with them on some way!
Again, good luck to you Mr. Skallagrimsson - you should be published by virtue of your last name alone!

15 November, 2006 00:15  

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