Wednesday, January 3, 2018

The Yin and Yang of Story-Telling

Thought for the day:  It ain't whatcha write. It's the way atcha write it. [Jack Kerouac]


First off, Happy New Year!!! Now that the ball has dropped, the champagne's gone flat, and the resolutions have been broken, it's time to face a new year of endless possibilities. Let's try to carpe the heck out of every new diem, shall we?

As you can probably tell by that nifty badge on the left, it's that time again.Time for our monthly IWSG posts. As always, thanks to our fearless leader, Alex Cavanaugh, for founding this fine group, and thanks to all the other nurturing guys and gals who've helped turn it into the thriving community it is today. To join this super supportive group of writers and to see links to other participating blogs, please go HERE

So what do you think of Jack Kerouac's thought for the day quote? Do you agree? When it comes to subject matter, do writers truly have free rein? No matter what they write... as long as it's well-written? Is their only limitation defined by their imagination and creativity, or are they in some ways restricted by the expectations of their readers?


If an author writes a book you like in a certain tone and genre, do you want him locked into always writing in that same tone and genre... or is it okay if he reveals another side of himself? Can a writer who makes you laugh in one book get away with showing a darker side of life in the next?

Can I?

My first novel is a light-hearted slice-of-life tale that embraces both humorous and poignant moments. From what readers have told me, it makes them laugh. Sometimes, it makes them cry, too, but mostly it makes them laugh. On the other hand, the trilogy I'm working on now is much more serious. Darker. Sure, there's some humor, but this slice-of-life story revolves around a rather tragic character.

So what's more important to you... the content of a book or the way it's written? When you read multiple books by the same author, do you do so with certain expectations? If your favorite sci-fi writer wrote a thriller or your favorite fantasy writer wrote a cozy mystery... would you read it?

I'm really curious about what you guys think. Books have always been an important part of my life, broadening my horizons and enabling me to view the human condition from different perspectives, and I'm generally willing to read just about anything in just about any genre. How about you? What do you expect from the books you read? Are good writing and a captivating story... no matter the content... enough, or do you seek a specific kind of story?

A fella named Leonard Chapel sent me the following poem, which he wrote in 1994, and he kindly gave me permission to share it with you. I think he really nails the way most of us feel about reading.


[image courtesy of Morguefile]


NIGHTLY SOJOURNS

Every night I love to read while lying in my bed
Though staying home I take a trip to where my mind is led
On many journeys I have gone to places far away
Cairo, Kiev, Bogota, Peking and Bombay

I’ve also met some famous people on my nightly treks
From Thomas J. to J.F.K. and even Malcolm X
One night I sailed the ocean blue while searching for a whale
Another night I studied birds while serving life in jail

One night I drove a Sherman tank across the river Rhine
And then there was Miss Havisham who was not so divine
I crossed the Alps with elephants to wage a mighty war
I sat and pondered as the raven quoted ‘Nevermore’

While with a man called Yellow-Hair I watched the arrows fly
And at a place called Devil’s Den I watched a good friend die
Down a river I did float upon a wooden raft
And when I corrupted Hadleyburg, oh, how I did laugh

I flew a jet off a carrier deck to bomb a Korean bridge
I chased a Soviet submarine into the Atlantic Ridge
I’ve traveled around this great big earth and still there’s much to see

But thanks to books I read at night, the world now comes to me

**********************

QUESTION OF THE MONTH: What steps have you taken or plan to take to put a schedule in place for your writing and publishing?

Um, none. Mine is more of a free and breezy approach. I simply plod along at my own pace, and when I'm done with a project... I'm done. No muss, no fuss. With that, I'll bid adieu. 

Until next time, take care of yourselves. And each other. 

67 comments:

  1. I'm determined to write more and publish more this year!

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    1. Good goals! With your determination, I'm sure you'll meet them.

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  2. I am with you. I refuse to let genre limit what I read. And some of my very favourite books cross the genre divide. Engrossing writing will suck my weak-willed self in, regardless of the subject. Saying that I do have a caveat. Books which glorify cruelty (physical, mental,emotional) are out - no matter how well written. Ditto a book which denigrates a complete category of people (ethnicity, religion, gender, ability etc).

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    1. I concur with your caveats. Plus, there is only one book I've ever read that I actually tossed into the garbage after finishing it. It's been so long ago, I don't remember the title, but the main character in it was unbelievably vile. The only thing that kept me reading was the anticipation of seeing that horrible man get what he deserved in the end. He didn't... he got away with every single vile thing he did, and showed every indication that he'd continue to be a loathsome person.

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  3. Happy new year to you, I wish you health and creativity! Hugs, Valerie

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    1. HAPPY NEW YEAR to you, too! Health and creativity? What lovely wishes! I wish the same for you. Then again, since your creativity is already heads and shoulders above the rest of us, maybe I should wish something else for you... I wish you joy and inner peace. :)

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  4. Although I'm not writer, I was happy to see a reference in Leonard Chapel's verse to "...Hadleyburg". It made me think of what I most like to feel while reading. I like to feel loved by the author. Mark Twain could do that. Excellent post and best wishes to you and Smarticus.

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    1. Oh no, but I must disagree, dude. You most definitely ARE a writer! Anyone who has ever read your blog or one of your poems would surely agree.

      "Feel loved by the author"... Interesting way to put it. I've never thought of it in quite those terms, but I know what you mean.

      Best wishes right back to you and Norma. HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!

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    2. I agree, Susan. Geo is a writer who makes us feel loved (in a platonic way, of course...).

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  5. Great question! I like to write fantasy/sci-fi and cozy mysteries which probably don't really go together :-) But, it's what I like to write and read, so I do.

    Happy New Year - Ellen

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    1. Maybe that's the trick... write what you like to read. Works for me!

      HAPPY NEW YEAR to you, too!

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  6. Susan, I really liked your book and your writing - looking forward to discovering more. I'm on track for another novel out this year, and determined to make time for more reading when I'm not being a writing hermit. I go into a world with writing deeper than when I'm reading - do you find that?
    And I love to try new things, always, I'm impossibly curious.
    Happy twelvemonth to all :-)

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    1. Hi-ya, Lisa. Thanks! I'm glad you enjoyed it.

      Yes, I definitely get more sucked into the world I create while writing than I do when I'm reading someone else's story. Maybe because our writing is such a fluid thing? When we write, our creative juices are flowing, and our imagination is going wild, but when we read, the setting and story are already set in stone... by somebody else. :)

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    2. "already set in stone" true, but still your imagination can take you places the author might not have thought of, and each re-reading can have you interpreting it differently. Unlike a movie where what you are seeing is someone else's imagination with little or no place for your own.

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    3. No argument there. The imagination is much more free to roam while reading a book than while watching a movie.

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  7. I don't mind if an author I enjoy reading tries something new, as long as it's clear that it's new, and I know that going into the book/story.

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    1. True! It's always helpful to KNOW what kind of story to expect before reading. The only time that didn't happen for me was when a friend gave me "Rosemary's Baby" years ago with the admonition to "just read it." She sure caught me by surprise...

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  8. The way that we write is very important, but what we write is also important. As my Mom would have said - "It's six of one and half a dozen of the other."

    But some writers (none that I know, of course) get away with writing nothing, but do it in such a clever way that they land on the NYT Bestseller List. Go figure.

    We all have favorite authors from whom we expect a certain amount of literary consistency - - but I think the very best (and creative) writers are the ones who can write in varying styles and genres. Sameness and unpredictability are boring.

    I hope this new year is wonderfully creative for you, Susan!

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    1. Terrific comment, cowboy! Thank you.

      Here's to a happy new year void of sameness and predictability. May this be the year you finish writing your memoir. Lots of people are reeeeeeally looking forward to reading it.

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  9. I am definitely willing to read something different by an author that I love. Stephen King comes to mind. Altho he usually writes horror, The Dome strayed into Scifi territory and The Talisman was more fantasy, imo, and I loved them both. Very curious about your trilogy...

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    1. Oh yeah, you're right about King! He also wrote a fantasy called "The Dragon's Eye." (If I remember the title correctly... I'm too lazy to go into the other room and check...)

      Good! I'm glad you're curious. Now, if I can only deliver...

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  10. I would have to say that it is the way you write it that counts. Some have the talent to write things so that you can almost see it or smell it. Words can make or break a story. Happy New Year to you and many new books too!

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    1. Well said.

      HAPPY NEW YEAR to you, too! May each new day continue to fill your heart with joy.

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  11. As far as the quote goes, I think it depends what you mean by "well written". Technically well written IMO isn't enough. It's more a matter of does it capture me, engage me? I think you can write on any subject if you can capture the reader.

    And writers writing different genres/styles is OK, providing the right expectations are set, i.e. it's clear from the book cover, blurb etc. that this is not the same as before.

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    1. I agree. It DOES depend on one's definition of "well-written." The style and voice of a book can draw me in... or turn me off.

      Good point. You've gotta let 'em know what to expect.

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  12. Definitely it's about how well-written a book is. I think writers can cross genres. I've seen writers for children's books cross over into adult novels, and they seem to do well. Again, it's about how well-written the book is.

    Good luck with your trilogy!

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    1. I think you're write. A story told well is a story told well, no matter what the genre.

      Thanks! (I'm gonna need it!)

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  13. easy breezy and plodding - that's me too. I do plan on writing more, but work keeps increasing too. Alas the paycheck does win out. But, no excuses.
    It's okay to branch out and go darker. Writers should not stay in a rut. It's okay to have same characters and keep some familiar tics, but as a reader, I want new layers.
    So keep putzing along and I know I look forward to your work. Plus meanwhile, keep the chuckles and posts coming - always makes for a fun Friday.
    2018 - here you go!

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    1. Yep, we're two of a kind... :) Hopefully, we'll both plod our way to the finish line of some writing projects this year.

      OK, good, because I've definitely gotten darker in this new book. In fact, after getting feedback from my betas, I'm now in the process of making my "tragic character" more likable.

      Happy New Year, kiddo!

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  14. I believe writers can write whatever they write. I've written children's stories I hope to publish. Anything goes. :)

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  15. Free and breezy is a fine way to be...for most things lol

    I go from a rhyming cat, to kids books, to murder books, to profanity granny, so if they want the same, pffft. But people do get set in their ways. Just look at JK Rowling, she tried other books, but all people keep harping on his Potter.

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    1. Yeah, you're right. You ARE quite the eclectic writer, aren't you? :)

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  16. If you want to see someone who has successfully crossed genres, may I suggest you check out Carol Wyer's work?

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    1. Good example! I've read some of her books, and you're absolutely right about her ability to cross genres.

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  17. I love the poem! Thanks to you and your friend for sharing it. If I'm reading a series, I expect the tone to be the same. But if not a series, I don't. How boring if we had to write everything the same all the time. Readers would probably get tired of us, too :)

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    1. Good point. I think most, if not all, readers have higher expectations of finding the same tone and voice within a series. Speaking of which, I hope Gracie's Book Two will be making a debut soon... :)

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    2. Me too, LOVED the first one.

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  18. Blessings and happy new year.
    Very insightful post. Thank you for sharing i can certainly use some of these tips.

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  19. Great poem! I love all kinds of books, writers, and subjects!!! I also like stretching myself as a writer. Don't allow yourself to get pigeon holed. Write first for yourself!

    Trust you!

    I do. And your 'none' answer is hog wash, your are a step by step, do it right, until it's right writer. Your plodding is more goal oriented than most to do lists! You're a writer I admire!
    Happy 2018!

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    1. Again, congratulations on being selected for the anthology! Hmmm, maybe I should adopt your notion of stretching myself as a writer, because I sure don't get much other exercise these days... :)

      Thanks for the vote of confidence, kiddo. Happy 2018 to you, too.

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  20. As long as our writing, painting, composing comes from the heart, hmmm, friend Sue? ... May the circle be unbroken ... Love, cat.

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    1. Indeed. From the heart. You know when someone is willing to put a vital organ on the line, they're serious. :) Just kidding. You're right. It's because creative people DO put their hearts and souls into their creations that they're so darned vulnerable and insecure. It isn't easy to "put it all out there."

      Happy New Year, sweet cat.

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  21. "..reveals another side of himself.."? well, that depends very much on whether or not he can carry it successfully enough to get through to me. Content is important, but writing style more so I feel. Someone might have a 'stuffy long-winded' style and it doesn't matter how good the story is, if I have to wade through too much to sort out the tale, then I won't read that author again. Seriousness, drama etc, can be achieved without using every 13 letter word and pages of unnecessary description.. what I'm trying to say, I think, is I prefer a pop-fiction style to weighty, wordy, literature. I'm no highbrow who wants to find the story though searches for the deeper meaning. I want it right there, funny or serious, light or dark, right up front so my imagination can take hold and run with it.

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    1. I know what you mean. My hubby and I had an English teacher in high school who dissected every single book we read and led endless discussion searching for hidden meanings. (Most of which, I'm sure, were NEVER intended by the authors.) The whole process turned reading into an unpleasant chore for some students, including my hubby. Most readers, like you, just want to sit back and read a book for sheer enjoyment.

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  22. I'm not a writer but a big reader. If I discover a new author that I like, then I look for more of his or her work. For me, good writing is more important than anything; a good writer will appeal WHATEVER THE SUBJECT. Conversely, Dan Brown is a good story-teller but I simply can't read his awful books. Similarly with Jeffery Archer. As far as recommendations are concerned, I get a better idea from amateur reviews online than in the newspapers. Generally speaking friends recommendations for good books have often disappointed!
    CLICK HERE for Bazza’s novaturient Blog ‘To Discover Ice’

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    1. I do the same thing when I discover a new-to-me author, so I take heart with your comment about "whatever the subject." Like you, I'm not a big fan of some of the writers the rest of the world lauds. Different strokes, right?

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  23. I try not to pigeonhole writers into only one genre or style. If I like a writer's work, I am open to reading anything that they have written. Wishing you all the best in the New Year!

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    1. Good! I'm glad to hear that. I'm kind of eclectic in my tastes and my writing, so I don't think I'd fit into a pigeonhole very well. (It'd have to be a BIG pigeonhole...)

      Happy New Year to you, too!

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    2. A pigeon hole entrance with many rooms inside.

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    3. There'd still be the problem of trying to squeeze my turkey-sized arse through that hole... :)

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  24. Hi Susan - wonderful poem and I'm so glad your friend agreed to let you publish it. Delightful ... I do get bored with some authors = similar genre and style ... but they are successful - so why not ... Agatha Christie did, and I'm sure Charles Dickens too ...

    You write beautifully well here - enough lightness to keep us amused as we browse your very varied subjects ... so keep on 'gal' and we'll be seeing you around ... Yin and Yang - it takes two to write and then read ... or read and then write ... all the best for 2018 to you and Smarticus - cheers Hilary

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    1. HI-ya, Hilary. Happy New Year!

      I get bored with the same-o same-o kind of writing and story after a while, but I don't necessarily enjoy certain writers simply because they're popular. (i.e. "Fifty Shades of Gray." It sold a bazillion copies, but I have absolutely NO interest in reading it.)

      Thanks. I'll keep on keeping on. You do the same. :)

      Cheers back atcha.

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  25. Very valid questions to ask. I'd like to believe that a great majority of writers stick to genres they are familiar with. That is not to say that when writing out of their comfort zones -their work would lose value -except if the said work is simply sub par. John Grisham is well known for his legal thrillers, but when he branched out, all of a sudden his work wasn't any good.
    Different strokes for different folks I guess.

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    1. Good example. Maybe whether a writer can write successfully in more than one genre depends on the writer. Perhaps some can and others, not so much.

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  26. Happy New Year to you and Smarticus!

    I have no problem with authors writing in different genres. I think of it as a person having different moods. We all deserve to be happy, sad, romantic, stressed, pensive, exuberant, etc. at times - and we are still the same person. Why not writers?

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    1. HAPPY NEW YEAR to you & Dave, too!

      What a terrific way to look at it! Thanks for the insight. :)

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  27. Happy New Year to you, Susan!! I hope the first book of your trilogy is out in the world in 2018 so I can read it. :)
    I say anything goes as far as writers too. I think it's great for people to branch out and try different things.

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    1. HAPPY NEW YEAR to you, too, Julie. Thanks. If all goes well, the first book should be released this year.

      You're like the poster child for writers who tackle different genres. :)

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  28. Great post! I wish you the best of luck with your book.

    Greetings from London.

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  29. Lovely to read your post.

    Sending my good wishes for a happy new year to you,
    I also wish you good health and great creativity too.

    All the best Jan

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    1. Thank you.

      Sending Happy New Year wishes your way, too with lots of creativity bubbling and the good health to pursue those creative ideas.

      All the best back atcha.

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