Go, Thief! Writing as Collaborative Piracy

 

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“A thief who steals from a thief is pardoned for one hundred years”—Eli Wallach as Calvera (Magnificent Seven/Seven Samurai remake soon in theaters near you)

As a grad student taking creative writing classes, I did a lot of workshopping, but received little practical advice.  Most everything learned is earned, not given.  However, the best counsel I got was as an undergraduate toiling away in my Intro to Fiction course: “If you see something you like, steal it” (the professor/novelist who uttered these words will obviously not mind my failing to attribute to him here.)

There’s not much stealing of money by novelists, short-fictioneers, playwrights, and poets going on (we leave that to the publishing houses).  On the other hand, the best and worst of us do steal material pretty liberally from each other.   Some of this is unconscionable laziness, but I think those who take their craft seriously do hold themselves to a few self-imposed rules, which I’d like to codify here by supplementing my old professor’s advice with what I call the “Rule of Three O’s”: “By all means, steal: but try not to steal too often; nor too obnoxiously; nor too obviously.  Penalties exist for each.

  • Too often. No one likes to be labeled an unoriginal hack.  I mean, if you do this daily, you might as well become a television journalist and get paid well.  None of them seems to have recognized that Donald Trump has lifted most of his campaign platform from Adolf Hitler (“Make _______ Great Again,”) but you know that if one did, they’d all be parroting it.  Because there is no honor among thieves: they turn on each other.   Genre writers are in greatest danger of returning to the well too often, killing the golden goose, choose your cliché (a word-level version of this crime).
  • Too obnoxiously. You wouldn’t carjack a Corvette and then drive it around the same county without at least a re-paint, would you?  That’s just not right.  A plot, for example, needs to be sufficiently re-dressed to make it palatable.  Some recognize that the story of Jason Bourne is a retelling of Frankenstein, just as Blade Runner was (and to some extent the Wolverine and Deadpool tales): Scientist manipulates human limitations; scientist gets re-visited over and over by the subject of his experiment (“Why would he come back now?”)  It’s a good story with much psychological depth and breadth, as well as moral/ethical implications, which is why it gets told every five years.  Another version of obnoxious theft is a too-clever playing with familiar phrases.  Some writers get so good at this, they’re dangerous:  “Code of Dishonor,” “Twice Bitten,” “Can’t Stand In Heat.”  Seriously, why would you even crack the cover of a book entitled “For a Few Zombies More?”  Do you expect the writing to improve after that?
  • Too obviously. If last week’s marquee title is The Terminator, and you rush-premiere a B-movie called The Decimator, The De-resonator, or The Decaffeinater, even the trolls on the forums will crucify you (now there’s a story worth retelling,) without even watching it. And you deserve it.

Which leaves us with the question of how to do stealing right.  There are perhaps a hundred ways, so let’s “borrow” a few from the greats:

Allusions. Usually at the word level, these nuggets are on full display for those in your audience who may have read more than three or four books.  When John Steinbeck cribbed his novel’s title, In Dubious Battle, from the proem of John Milton’s epic Paradise Lost, it was more than a pretty phrase he admired.  He wanted to signal, perhaps, that workers in contemporary America (the many and weak) were being warred upon by Satanic forces (the few and powerful).  Steinbeck, in fact, grifted several of his titles from Biblical or semi-biblical sources: The Grapes of Wrath, East of Eden, and other writers (Of Mice and Men).

Homages/parodies. In Young Frankenstein, Mel Brooks wasn’t trying to get away with piracy, but instead to rely on the audience’s familiarity with both the story and previous remakes from Hollywood.  The result is wonderful: How I did It is the title of the Baron’s journal. The great danger I see, today, is that in a semi-literate culture, exposure to 2nd, 3rd, and farther-removed parodies takes the place of reading the originals, rather than supplementing it.  Children, of course, will claim they can survive on candy; and so it’s no surprise to hear twenty-somethings argue they can distill the important news from The Daily Show and Saturday Night Live.

Shakespeare, yes even he of the cranium enormous, raided the Plot and trappings of Hamlet, Julius Caesar, and probably Othello and Romeo and Juliet from earlier sources. Now, given what he accomplished with them, and the relative scarcity of masterplots, this is forgivable.  How many people recognize that The Terminator is a thematic retelling of Sophocles’ Oedipus Rex (by attempting to avoid predestined events, one can actually bring them to pass)?  Cameron simply converted prophecy to time-travel (two sides of the same coin).

Update/Remake for a modern audience. Emerson said that every generation had to reinvent its stories (here I’m paraphrasing—at least I’m giving the guy credit!)  Especially the out-of-copyright ones (wink to the publishers and movie studios there.)     I suspect 2016’s Birth of a Nation will not much resemble the original.  You did know that was first made by D.W. Griffiths in 1915, adapted from Thomas Dixon’s novel The Clansmen (1905,) didn’t you?  Film and literary critics fascinate themselves with analyzing how remakes tell us much about the culture that produced them, by emphasizing and deemphasizing certain elements of the ur-story.

Recasting from a different perspective. Euripides is perhaps the most prolific of western writers here.  He recast much of Greek mythology from the point-of-view of “the other,” the marginalized characters: Medea, The Trojan Women, The Bacchae.  A very neat and risky trick.  How many Americans do you know that would enjoy a film about how the Russians sacrificed twenty million souls to defeat the Nazis in World War II?  And yeah, that did happen.

Which brings us to pseudo-history. Spielberg’s Amistad, Mann’s The Last of the Mohicans, Stone’s JFK, anything by Michael Moore in a more documentary mode, are all masterful narratives.  They are not history, by any serious definition.  BUT, they weren’t meant to be: they ARE meant to raise the spirit of inquiry in the audience, to challenge them to learn more and seek the truth themselves.  Poe did this with his unreliable narrators, but the solutions lay within his stories themselves.  Here, the facts lie outside the story, in other accounts one would have to research.  Sadly, this is all too infrequently done, and the pseudo-history stands as the somewhat-removed Truth.

So writers, don’t worry so much about books getting stolen, in either analog or digital form.  One way or another, it’s all in the public domain, there for the taking–isn’t it?  Put it this way–no one ever promised to pay you, anyway.  Given the choice, you’d rather give it away than keep it to yourself.

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Issues for Indie Authors: Combating Writer’s Block; or Diving Into a Corner, on Purpose

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By Shawn Stjean

If you can’t solve day-to-day challenges creatively, what chance will your characters, with their high-stakes conflicts, have?

Many articles exist on this topic, and suggested solutions (“Seven Ways. . .”) range from the gimmicky to the sublime.  I’m here to suggest only one–it works every day for me–but it is more like an ounce of prevention than a pound of cure.  After all, it’s better to never catch the disease in the first place, especially if you occupy the position of treating writing like a job, or better yet,  a vocation.

That’s a good position to be in.  Above all, you must remember that, as rewarding as it is to finish, publish, hold a book in your hands, and cash a royalty check, those days come few and far between.  The vast majority of your hours will be spent drafting, thinking, revising, taking sips of coffee, heaving heavy sighs, scratching your head, and typing.  And this is the FUN part.  (Fun at least compared to formatting, proofreading, promoting, and all the associated networking).

There’s the key: this is your working life; it’s FUN.  Not like a roller coaster ride, but in the way a watching a great movie or engaging in spirited debate or contributing to a difficult class period is fun–it grows your brain, makes you recall there’s more to existence than_________(insert your various modes of drudgery here).

So, this strategy involves optimizing the fun that’s in the work, in a non-logical way: through creation of anxiety (so a bit like a roller coaster,after all.)

I draft my characters into trouble, and confront them with difficulties, that I most often cannot see the solution to, myself, in advance.  This may sound risky, but consider this: if you can see the answer around the corner, how far behind might your best readers be from doing the same?

These difficulties need not necessarily signal major plot events, though they might:  I’ve used everything from a protagonist trapped in a plummeting airplane, to simply agonizing over whether to lie to his wife, and what to convincingly say.  This unsureness about what’s coming next lends the narrative verisimilitude it might otherwise lack.  Also, of course, you might be telling a story with familiar archetypal or historical outlines.  Everyone knows the Germans lost WWII, so the climax is not in doubt–it’s HOW your little squad of misfits is able to pull together, despite their differences, to contribute.  So the dramatic tension of your fourth chapter might simply consist, not of how to win a battle, but of how to simply get along with each other.

But does this strategy cure (or avoid) writer’s block?  Aren’t you simply substituting one problem for another (perhaps greater)one?

Yes, and no.  NOW you’re moving, and your neurons are firing, and your fingers are typing, where before they weren’t.  The first solution, or several, to a problem may not be the ideal one, or even a plausible one, but you can worry about that later, in revisions.  You’re now in challenge mode, but not blocked.  You’re only running, scrambling, juking to get over, under, around, or through the current obstacle, even as you’re moving forward.  It’s a lot like playing a sport.  Living in the now.

See, what professionals in any field know is that you can only think and prepare and research for so long, but the time comes when, as the slogan says, you “Just Do It,” for better or worse (But recall that Nike means Victory, in Greek.)  Much of what you accomplish goes on the scrap pile, later.  Every bit is not gold.  In short, pros know enough to get over themselves.  Amateurs treat every move like it will be the last, caught on tape, memorialized in stone, as if their time and effort is too valuable to waste. It ain’t, man.  Next week’s another game.

True, it also helps if you have a rough outline, like a coach has a gameplan–written down–of the overall plot structure.  It’s flexible.  This could be a line graph with labels, a Harvard outline, or post-its–whatever works so you can keep the big picture in mind.  Then you’re in a position to see whatever you’re working on as merely an episode.  Perhaps what you write for the next hour will function only as a temporary placeholder, to be replaced by something more brilliant later.  So be it.  The character(s) are at point A; they must arrive at point C; how are they going to get there?  You are now at point B: start typing.  Don’t think.  Type.

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Issues For Indie Writers: Complicating the Plot Structure of Your Story / Novel

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By Shawn StJean

Shakespeare inherited from the Greek tragedians a 5-part plot structure, which functions to keep the writer on track concerning the overall trajectory of the work, and from getting lost in the details.  English teachers know this structure as Freytag’s Triangle or Pyramid: Act I—Exposition, II-Complication, II—Climax, IV—Catastrophe (Reversal), and V—Denouement (“Unraveling”).  In today’s faster paced, Hollywood-aligned writing environment, the formula is often shortened to the left half of the pyramid, or simply three components: Exposition, Complication, and Climax.  Credits roll.  And although crucial elements can be lost in this truncation (reducing the pyramid to a two dimensional line, as it were), that’s a concern for another time.  More important for the moment, is that in its short form, the Complication (often oversimplified in diagrams as “rising action”) assumes even greater importance—in fact, it can truthfully be called the “guts of the story.”

Even so, not enough modern writers understand the pivotal function of Act II.

Reviewing briefly:

Act I—Exposition.  The best narratives begin “in media res,” (in the midst of things)—at an interesting point in the overall action.  This requires that the audience be briefed, by means of flashbacks or dialogue, on the conflict that brought the characters to this high pass, and quickly introduced to the individual characters themselves.  In a film, this act consumes the initial 30-40 minutes of viewing time.

Act II—Complication.  30-40 more minutes.  Many folks intuit that, here, we’ll “get to know the characters better.”  They’ll make friends and/or develop antagonisms, either against each other, themselves, or the environment (in the case of Hamlet, all of these).  But a complication only deepens plot, by mixing the element of characterization with it, so to speak.  Think of it this way: Things go from bad to worse.  Example: A soldier’s gash on the foot at first causes a mere limp, but left untreated, induces sepsis.  How do the characters react?  How does action lead to reaction?  What ironies and motifs and themes begin to emerge?  Does the narrative take on a tone of inevitability, or are choices still available?

Act III–Climax.  Second hour.  A sad truth about contemporary storytelling, whether oral, filmic, written, or graphic, is that Act II gets short-circuited and far too much attention gets lavished upon the action of climax (recall how much of the finest elements of Tolkien’s work have been jettisoned by Peter Jackson in service of gory spectacle).  People say “it picks up,” as if this equates to “gets better.”  True, this presents a mighty problem for the chronicleer: how to present a high significance of action, and not just a high and unsustainable level.  But the truth is, a finely wrought set of complications will dictate the climax to a large extent, and no artificial resolution should be needed (such as a deus ex machina, aka miracle ending).

As ever, pop culture provides a ready resource for illustration.  As a contained–hopefully visual and entertaining–example of structure and the energizing role of Complication, I’d like to use an unusual text–a performance of the Rolling Stones’ iconic song “Gimme Shelter.”  Lyrics, naturally, form our primary, but not exclusive, focus here.  To simplify matters even further, we need only examine the chorus (a term aptly take from Greek drama,) of the song, which not coincidentally divides itself into three, similar couplets:

 

1-War, children,

It’s just a shot away.

 

3-Love, sister,

It’s just a kiss away.

I’ve intentionally left out Act II here, to dramatize its effect later.  Taking the first and third parts, we see the speaker has created a parallel structure, at both the local/grammatical-sentence level, and the overall plot level.  And while technically speaking, it’s hard to say this is “plot,” so much as allegory, it certainly becomes one when we add the aural and visual elements of a performance:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ctrC9FtkmYA

If you’ll invest five minutes watching the video, you’ll see not only a great song performed by its creators, but even its flaw serves a wonderful purpose.  Dividing it roughly into thirds, we initially see Mick Jagger and the boys doing professional, if run-of-the-mill, work—not exactly phoning it in, but doing what’s proven, in a fairly uninspired way.  But what follows changes everything (Act II): an unfamiliar element, Lisa Fischer, for whom the term “back-up singer” would be a gross injustice, descends from the background, takes center stage, and electrifies the performance, raising not only the audience’s interest level, but galvanizing the other band members: Watts’ drums, Richards’ and Woods’ guitars, and Jagger’s vocals.  And now we’re in a position to hear those lyrics Fischer is responsible for:

2-Rape, murder,

They’re just a shot away.

These lines complicate the basic conflict: that we’re all living, in the late 20th/early 21st centuries, under the delicate balance and precarious threat of war—just a simple misstep from Armageddon (recall the Cuban Missile Crisis of ’62.)  But there’s a choice—peace, too, that can be embraced, through an act of love, not fear and hatred.  If we ask ourselves, what structurally ought to come between the black and white, the right and left, we’ve confronted one of the most basic intellectual challenges in life.  It isn’t always as simple as “Grey,” when the choice lies between wrong and right.

Instead, the Stones have chosen another route.  Because “war” is such an abstract, monolithic concept, the 2nd stage of the chorus both amplifies and specifies what it entails: not just bloodless “killing” in defense of ideals, but the vicious and selfish ending of human life–murder–always a by-product of war, as well as the brutal stripping of the precious: land, children, women.  Rape.  These lines give the song flesh and blood, in the same way Fischer’s blood-curdling ability to hit the high notes thrill the spine and appall the senses.  In terms of the performance in the video (enhanced by the camerawork, lighting, and editing) Fischer adds an important female presence, and more than a hint of controlled sexuality, which makes her repetition of the word “rape” very resonant.

To return to Hollywood terms, then, the Complication amplifies the basic conflict, by doubling or tripling it, by raising or personalizing the level of threat, by adding a previously unseen dimension.  In Oedipus Rex, a plague has descended upon the city of Thebes, and a soothsayer reveals the gods have brought it on because a murderer roams free in the city.  The king vows to find and punish the culprit: basic conflict established.  However, we in the audience slowly come to realize, through layered ironies, that the murderer is Oedipus himself.  Thus, a complication can often be expressed through a question:  How can a man administer justice for the community and himself at the same time?  Today’s films, even comedies, as simple as they often are, are no different.  Take Jack Black’s School of Rock, for example.  In Act one, we find a N’er-do-well ejected from his band, his job, and his apartment all in the same day.  Basic conflict.  He falsely assumes the identity of a middle-school substitute music teacher in order to make ends meet.  Thus, complication: How can a man who knows plenty about music, and nothing about teaching, inspire a motley bunch of youngsters to play, appreciate, and love music?

The Complication, if well done, will rise above the Climax in its interest level.  It’s here, after all, that protagonists struggle with the details of their challenges, suffer setback and defeat, and prepare to (potentially) grow, or devolve, in the final act.  When you’ve seen enough Hollywood films, in fact, Climaxes begin to bore you, with their gunfire and car chases, somehow contriving to sell you on the dubious idea that violence always solves complex problems (try Divergent for a recent, disappointing example.)

What does this mean for writers, as a practical issue?  First, Aristotle’s famous remark that “plot is the soul of tragedy” still holds true, especially if you take a generous definition of tragedy: a struggle (often failure, but an occasional success) of human beings to reach their potential.  Western culture’s first critic insisted that events and our responses to them define who we are—we do not shape events.  This may create an uncomfortable view of free will for the modern viewer, but it helps in storytelling immensely.  Ask yourself: how is my protagonist both a representative of, and an amplified example of, humankind?  What trials will represent and dramatize this best?  How will s/he have it worse than the average person?  What bits of key dialogue will support this plot?  Which elements are worth repeating–with variations–to clarify my theme?  Most importantly, what actions will the protagonist(s) take, or fail to take, when adversity arises?

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A lot gets lost in those parentheses, but “Rising Action” or Complication provides the real enjoyment of a story or novel.

Clotho’s Loom Full Review on Veronica’s Garden

Rachel Creager Ireland, author of Post Rock Limestone Caryatids (soon to be reviewed in this space) has written an in-depth evaluation of the novel Clotho’s Loom.

http://veronicasgarden.wordpress.com/2013/05/20/clothos-loom-weighty-amusing-mysterious-difficult-to-put-down/

ImageImageWhile you’re over there, check out Rachel’s own novel: “Part dystopian sci-fi, part women’s lit, with a touch of romance and a generous helping of nature writing, Post Rock Limestone Caryatids might be the book Marge Piercy and Willa Cather would co-author if they met on a natural parenting forum.”

“Static”: Synthesizing Bad Reviews

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By Shawn StJean

Another one star review on Amazon, bringing the reviews of Clotho’s Loom there in, as the novel approaches a year since publication, exactly split down the middle (ignoring the five-star reviews that were taken down). Seven positive, and seven negative. I doubt you’ll find a more even spread, anywhere. And enough of a sample to signal a love-hate trend that may always continue.

So based on this uncanny balance, I’m awarding myself an official Most Controversial Novel of 2012 title. No, there is not a lot of sex. There is, rather, a lightning rod that brings together diverging assumptions over what good writing is in our culture, and is not.

Rather than present both sides–lest this be seen as a promotional piece–I’d like to re-consider here only the negative comments. As always, I’d prefer anyone contemplating buying the book to read the sample first. Positive reviews can be as equally misleading as negative ones. Though bad reviews tend to be shorter, and not particularly informative–often due to the fact that the reviewer has neither bothered to finish the book, nor bothered to say so. However, there are a few recognizable trends, and a gap between what I expected and what I’ve gotten (SPOILER-FREE):

I expected folks to have a bit of sympathy for a veteran who learned to hate war, yet got sucked in to fighting another one and endured a brutal moral crisis over it. I had in mind the entire generation of Vietnam vets that history has tried to forget ever since they returned home, not in a wave or to a mass welcome, but individually and isolated, and to mistrust and apathy.

By contrast, several readers have found Will Wyrd cowardly–though they haven’t said that directly. “Spineless” and “without a backbone” seem to be the preferred expressions for a sniper who eventually discovers he can’t follow orders, and (unlike most Hollywood heroes,) is not vindicated by unqualified success.

I expected readers would enjoy reading about a strong woman (co)protagonist who is neither a vampire succubus, werewolf, or derivative, but rather, a career woman facing more lifelike challenges at home and work–though I have rendered them in as dramatic a fashion as realism allows.

Instead, she’s barely been mentioned in the bad reviews. Perhaps I should have expected this, given the gender biases of our culture, and shortened her skirts/augmented her breasts. But this overlooking her to focus nearly every remark on the male really is shocking to me, given that 90% of the book-buying public are women.

I expected people to have trouble accepting the ending, knowing that Americans prefer closure, and hearts-and-flowers affirmation.

What I didn’t expect was pretty clear evidence that half the readers aren’t making it to the ending at all, but many that do are resentful when they fail to understand it. Comments like “What was the point?,” “doom,” and “no resolution” leave little room for doubt there.

I expected quality of prose to matter; another mistaken assumption–perhaps my biggest.

But even for the “baddest” reviewers, one can sense the spectacularity of Clotho’s Loom’s failure for them: “Reads like complex history and literature,” “sensory overload,” and “it wanted to be mythology.” These are indeed some of the very qualities that other readers enjoy.

Oh, one final note: if your novel is long, that will only amplify people’s love or hate of it.

So based on my own, admittedly limited experience as a writer and educator for about 20 years, I’m concluding that we truly have reached the point at which some authors–me–will need to choose between what they expect from readers, and what the buying public expect of a novel. If you are, like me, one for whom those two sets of expectations stand on either side of a very wide chasm, you’ll need to either adjust your sights in toward conservative, commercial viability, or stick to your guns as currently zeroed.

Will my next book be different? Possibly. But as for my first novel, for better or worse, I wrote the book I always wanted to read. I wouldn’t change a word.
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Issues for Indie Authors: What’s in a Title? Your Novel’s Future. . .

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By Shawn StJean

As I’m doing the pre-writing on my next novel, I’m consistently struck dumb by the apparent lack of thought that has gone into 90% of the novel titles on the shelves.  Or perhaps, authors get so used to their working titles that they eventually begin to feel right, or at least familiar.  What’s apparently forgotten is that they will feel 100% UNfamiliar to new readers seeking their next vicarious adventure, love story, or escape. This overlooking of THE privileged position in all the thousands of words you’ll write and revise seems especially astonishing, given that if YOU don’t have a well-known name (or publisher) already, it’s up to those few words to carry your reputation.  So don’t be like the big corporate bean-counters, with their stables of mediocrity–distinguish yourself as a craftsman, right from the start.  A thinker, planner, and doer.

I don’t wish to pick on anyone’s work in particular.  A scan of the Best Sellers lists on any given day will confirm my complaint.  So I’ll attempt to offer something constructive instead, which are my three or four humble thoughts on how to devise a title that makes potential readers say “I want to read that!” WITHOUT seeing a cover (your cover being an entire, arcane art in itself).

Alliteration, Assonance, Consonance, and Half-Rhyme

Poets (unlike songwriters) know that a full rhyme scheme will often seem archaic or juvenile, if not downright childish–which may be what you’re going for.  But if not, half-ryhme, with the dominant vowel sound, will often sound fluid to readers without their necessarily knowing why.  Ditto with repetition of consonant sounds.  Compare these:

Wild, Wild, West

[        ] Hornet’s Nest

Gone Girl

Star Wars

Or these twentieth-century classics:

The Cat in the Hat

The Grapes of Wrath

Of course, the latter is not even half-rhyme (perhaps a quarter,) but it has the additional advantage of what, in its day, was a Well Known Allusion.  Others of this type:

In Dubious Battle  (refers to Milton’s Paradise Lost)

East of Eden  (biblical–Genesis)

Ulysses (Homer’s Odyssey)

Something Wicked This Way Comes (Shakespeare’s Macbeth–really hard to miss with the Bard)

Third, there are certain Key Words or Phrases that, as cliched as they may have become, seem to make readers comfortable, or intrigued, such as:

The Last of. . .

Murder

The Day of. . .

Girl (or a girl’s or woman’s name, like Carrie, Rebecca, etc.)  Personally, I find this a cop-out, but it’s hard to argue with success.  Go Ask Alice, an allusion to Lewis Carroll by way of Jefferson Airplane’s song “White Rabbit,” seems so much more daring to me.

And, there’s the ever-popular subtitle, “A Novel.” (bonus hint–if your title and cover are doing their jobs, you should not need to say this)

Finally, there are some great titles that don’t have much going for them other than the Thought That Went Into Them, such as:

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

Jaws

The Exorcist

Apocalypse Now

You Only Live Twice

Cosmos

Leaves of Grass

The Unbearable Lightness of Being

Nightmare on Elm Street

Cabin in the Woods

(Okay, so I snuck a few non-novel titles in there.  Those last two are so utterly generic that they seem universal, like genre meta-commentary.)

So authors, work those titles!  As a great filmmaker once said. . .Image

Genre Fiction Rules: Or Why’s Stephen Crane Lurking in Stephen King’s Shadow? Guest Post Hosted by Laurence O’Bryan

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Irish author, Twitter phenom, and friend to indie writers Laurence O’Bryan has graciously hosted a post by Shawn StJean on the topic of literary vs. commercial or genre fiction, as part of his great “Emerging Writers” series.

LINK to the article: http://bit.ly/Zq580I

While you’re there, check out other thoughtful contributions by writers in need of discovery, and of course, a great blog and Laurence’s own books, like The Istanbul Puzzle.

Thanks, Laurence!