Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Writing Wednesday: Don't be that writer

I've had some strange discussions with fellow writers, mostly because for people who study and practice how to communicate with other people, we can really be bad at communicating our ideas with each other.

There will always be someone who says they hate it when a writer uses some technique. Pop-culture references, regional dialects in dialog, symbolism and so on. It's not the actual technique they mind it's when the writer is terribly bad at them. As an example I'll use this screen grab from the movie “Tourist Trap”:

If you look carefully, or not so carefully, at this picture; the director was trying to use symbolism and subliminal messaging to amplify the classic theme of sexy girls in danger. The reaction it got from me was to laugh my ass off through the entire scene.

It is similar when a writer tries a technique that they just are no good at. Steven King's “Christine” was full of really bad symbolism that really took away from the book. Steven King's strength in writing is that he is clear. The bad symbolism took away from that. It would have been better if he stuck to his strength.

These things remind me of what a critic once said about Keanu Reeves trying to act in “Point Break”, as opposed to his normal mumbling his lines and looking baffled. “It's like watching a dog walking on two legs. Yes it's clumsy, yes it's unnatural and awkward. But you have to admire the effort.”

When these things are done well you don't notice and it adds to the story.

This scene from Alien is an example of that:

The crew holding down a guy with a huge phallic symbol coming out of his midsection in front of two women.

Two great authors Shakespeare and Joyce were bigger perverts than I am, and they blended that seamlessly into their writing. So seamlessly they are studied in high school, even though they are more perverted than the lyrics of Police songs.

It's good to practice new techniques, and try them out. But if you are forcing them it will look like a dog trying to walk on two legs. Or the writer of a comedy blog trying to write a serious post as an excuse to post a really funny picture.

By Darrell B. Nelson author of I KILLED THE MAN THAT WASN'T THERE

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